As we took the calf away from Violet we discussed what to do. We decided that even though it was a bit early for the night milking we should go ahead and do it now. The calf was clearly very hungry, and Violet’s udder was full, so we should just do it.
While I restrained the calf a safe distance away my husband got Violet into the stanchion eating, and hobbled her back legs together again. He led the calf up and the same scenario began to play out – she kicked against the hobbles, but he was really hungry and wasn’t giving up. Then all of a sudden she settled. She stopped kicking and she started eating. Her whole body relaxed, as did the calf’s (and ours for that matter!). He nursed all 4 quarters totally dry while she stood still and ate! When he was done he waddled, with his belly big and round, to his stall, layed down and went right to sleep. We checked her to see if there was any milk left, but all my husband could get was a few squirts for the cat dish. Success!
Now, she hadn’t accepted him as her own baby, BUT she HAD agreed to be a stanchion nurse cow to him, and that was progress. We went to bed happy and hopeful.
The next morning crushed our hopes back down as she kicked and tensed during milking. Then, she needed to urinate but the hobbles impeded her ability to get into position so she flailed around and fell and was riled up and frustrated. She was able to relieve herself, but by then she was so upset and tense and the calf was so scared there was no more stanchion nursing to be had. My husband milked her after she calmed down.
What a rollercoaster of emotions! One minute she likes him, the next she doesn’t. At what point do we call it quits?
We were headed to church and still didn’t trust her enough to let them stay together unsupervised. So we put her in the barnyard and left him loose in her stall with the door closed.
When we got home I headed out to begin my “cowsitting” routine again to see if we could get them to bond or not. As I approached the barnyard there was Violet laying down in the shade for her morning cud-chewing, and right next to her was the calf, also laying down. What the heck!? I looked up at the barn. Somehow he (or they?) had managed to slide the stall door off its roller just enough to then push the door out a tiny bit and he must have squeezed through that little slot and out into the barnyard! How many times have I been told that barns and fences are just psychological barriers for animals and they can get out of most anything if they want to bad enough? Too many to count, and here it was…playing itself out just like that.
I marched inside and told my husband what they had done. Twice now in 24 hours these two had managed to break down our barriers to get together. Enough was enough. Why bother separating them when they clearly were dead set on being together? Except there was still the matter of her being aggressive with him the night before when he became insistent about nursing.
I settled in to watch them and I was somewhat surprised the first time he tried to nurse. He got two good sucks in before she forced him to leave her. That was progress. She definitely seemed like he was wearing her down and she was starting to give up the fight. Maybe this was going to work after all.
Since she seemed to be getting more docile about the whole thing, we decided that we would work on cleaning out the garage, all the while keeping an eye on the barnyard out the window to watch for any aggression.
I kept glancing out the window anxiously, not wanting him to get hurt if she suddenly changed her mind again. Each time it looked the same. Him next to her or near her, but nothing more. Then I looked out and she was facing straight towards me and he was right up next to her with his rear to me. His tail was wagging around like crazy.
Anyone who has been around livestock knows what that wagging tail means with a baby!
HE WAS NURSING!!!
I yelled to my husband and kids to come see and we all quietly and cautiously headed toward the barnyard, afraid that we might disturb this sacred even that was taking place. As we came around for a better side view it became totally clear; the foaming milk dripped down his mouth and neck and his tail continued to wag…he was nursing! And she was standing there, eyes half-closed, chewing her cud, as if this is what she and he had done together every day for the last several weeks. No biggie. Except it WAS a biggie. It was huge! It was kind of ironic for her to act so nonchalant while we were exploding with excitement over the whole thing.
He emptied all four quarters and the two of them settled down for their afternoon snooze…as mother and son!
Later, I brought the camera out and caught her giving him a bath.
An important daily ritual between cow and calf. He was loving it! You can tell he is just smitten with this new motherly love he is being given. And the two of them seem like they have always been together. It is amazing how it just switched over so fast. Like a light switch. One minute he wasn’t hers, and the next minute he WAS.
I am SO overjoyed to be introducing the newest addition to Willow Creek Farm…