15 March 2018 – Sunny and highs in the upper 40’s
Tuesday morning, Dave and I went out to do chores, feed the cows, break the ice so they could drink, and muck the stalls. We take a good look at all the pregnant ladies. “Look up their address” as Linda says. We check their milk bags and their back ends to see if there are any signs of impending birth. Tuesday was not a typical morning because we only were able to find 13 of the 14 cows. Marzee, the biggest cow you have ever seen, was nowhere to be found.
Dave rounded up the other 13 and started feeding by putting bales in the southern feed ring and cutting off the strings. To divide and conquer, I went out in the woods to try to find Marzee. I started out in the Mule, but the snow got too deep and I got stuck, so I finished my sector search on foot. It was hard walking in snow up to my knees in some places, but I covered the entire southern pasture on the High Lonesome. I looked behind every rock and tree, and no Marzee. How does one lose a 1700 lb. cow?
When I finally arrived back at the corral and got the Mule unstuck, Dave had located Marzee. She had wandered off to the north side of the High Lonesome and came waddling up to the fence when she heard Dave putting out feed. We were really happy to see her, not that she could have gotten out anywhere, but it was very strange that she was not with the rest of the herd. She walked by and WOW was her milk bag big! It looked like someone had blown up a surgical glove to the size of a beach ball. She also had some mucus coming out her backside, which is a sure sign of imminent calving.
We kept an eye on Marzee all day, but she wasn’t acting strange or heading off on her own. After evening chores, we thought maybe she would wait another day. Dave and I came back to the Holler and had supper. As the sun sank low, we could see the herd wander out of the woods in the southern pasture to enjoy the last warm rays of daylight. We counted, and only got to 13 again! I grabbed the field glasses and sure enough, everyone was there except for Marzee.
We got back in the mule and headed over to the High Lonesome, looking for that enormous cow. She had found a nice secluded spot in the woods and was lying under a tree. When she heard the Mule, she got up and waddled off, but this time her tail was pointed straight out behind her, another sign that she was about to calve.
Marzee is a really sweet and gentle girl, so she didn’t complain when we rounded her up and put her in a shed in the corral. We wanted to be able to keep an eye on her in case of any complications, and we wanted her to have her own quiet space away from the herd for birthing. We stood there and watched her for over an hour. She kept pacing, standing up, laying down, breathing heavy and she was clearly in discomfort. Dave and I decided to go home and give her some space and check her every hour. So we went home and were fixing to head back about an hour later when Cowboy Dave called and said she just calved. Dang, we missed it! But Yeah! A BABY! So we headed back over to the High Lonesome and could see her cute little baby bull.
Marzee was exhausted. After licking the little guy clean, she laid back down in the shed. This is not normal, as typically a Mom will stand there and let her baby try to nurse. It is really important to a calf’s health that it starts nursing within a few hours of birth because it needs the colostrum from its mother’s milk to help the immune system. If a calf doesn’t get it in a few hours, its chances for survival diminish considerably. The little guy was on his feet and stumbling around, but since Marzee was laying down, he could not find a teat to start nursing. Cowboy Dave and Pilot Dave got in the shed and prodded Marzee up onto her feet. The bull was still stumbling around and trying to find a teat, but by this time he was exhausted so he laid down.
The two Dave’s got back in the shed and got him up on his feet, but then Marzee laid down again. This all happened within a couple of hours of the birth, and now the calf was not nursing and not even standing up. Linda went to her calving supplies and grabbed a syringe of Nursemate ASAP, which is a shot of vitamins and appetite stimulate to help a calf that is struggling to nurse. Cowboy Dave distracted Marzee with some cake while Pilot Dave grabbed the little bull and shoved the syringe in his mouth to administer the good stuff. The baby loved it and jumped up and started walking around and trying to find which end of his mother he could nurse. This continued for another 30-45 minutes, but he was unsuccessful and Marzee decided to lay down again! Then the bull laid down again. We were approaching 1030PM, about 2.5 hours after birth and the little calf had yet to get any colostrum or milk in his system.
We decided to leave them alone for an hour, and if we didn’t witness any nursing when we came back to look, we would give that baby some colostrum supplement through a bottle. Pilot Dave and I went back to the Holler and Cowboy and Linda retreated inside their house to warm up and rest a bit. Just before midnight, Pilot Dave heated up some water and mixed up the colostrum supplement. I put it in the giant baby bottle and we wrapped it in towels and put it in a cooler to keep it warm as we went back to check on Marzee and calf.
Back in the Mule, and back to the High Lonesome, Dave and I discussed our plan of action. We would entice Marzee back on her feet and out of the shed with cake, at which point we would isolate the calf in the shed, grab him and force feed him with the bottle.
We were so pleased when we got back to the shed to hear some slurping/sucking noise and when we shined the flashlight in there, Marzee was standing and baby was nursing! Hooray. He was absolutely pigging out. We were so happy to see nature take its course, and we also were kicking ourselves for being such nervous first-time cow-parents. Marzee looked at us with an expression that said, “I got this! Get out of here ya nutjobs!” So we left them alone and went back to the Holler, again. We finally got to bed around 1:30AM, but we fell asleep relieved and excited about the new member of our herd.
The next day, last year’s calves were really curious about the new little bull.
After a short introduction, we decided to keep Marzee and the little guy separate from the rest of the herd so he could figure out who his Momma is, what she sounds and smells like and what her different Moos mean.
The little bull got really strong, really quickly. Late in the afternoon, we lured Marzee away from him with cake, once again, and grabbed him to put in an ear tag and band his testicles. Just like that, our bull is now a steer!
He didn’t even cry or moo, but as Pilot Dave and I were working on him in the shed, Marzee ditched the idea of cake and came over to the fence and started yelling at us and giving us the what for. Her normally gentle lowing became extremely loud and low-pitched threatening moo that we could feel resonating through our boots! She did not want us messing with her baby. Several short minutes later, they were reunited and she sniffed him all over, especially the strange new earring.
The new calf is our first calf. He is also the first baby sired by Toothless, the bull we had last summer. Hence, we decided to name him “Toothless – Baby ONE” – and we will call him T-BONE.