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Thursday, October 30, 2008

And Mocha makes Three!

We had a big surprise when we got home from work the other day. Farmer Fisher couldn’t see Ginger out in the field with big Betty, so he went looking for her. He found her in the barn, standing protectively beside her new baby calf. After we had worried for weeks about how to prepare ourselves for the wonderment of calf birthing, she just pulled it off by herself. Annie named the new brown calf “Mocha”.
The Farmer penned cow and calf into the portion of the barn that they had chosen, and gave Ginger an extra portion of sweet feed.
Betty was not impressed. She was standing beside the hay feeder outside, looking lost and lonely. She couldn’t figure out why her friend wasn’t joining her on her late afternoon jaunt to the back of the pasture. Finally I lured her into the barn with some sweet feed, offered on an upturned garbage can lid.
“Look, Betty! Ginger has a surprise…” I stepped away so that Betty could see into Ginger’s pen. But she wasn’t looking at the new calf. All she could see was that Ginger had a fresh pile of new hay and a huge pile of sweetfeed. She didn’t seem interested in the new addition at all, and wandered back out of the barn for the night. If cows can sulk, I swear that’s what she was doing.
The next morning, I went to the barn to find that Ginger had busted out of her makeshift pen and was trying to get her calf to follow. Donkey saw that the pen gate was open and took the opportunity to venture in for any leftover sweetfeed or hay. He noticed the calf then, and wandered closer for a sniff.
That ticked Ginger off. For the first time since she had arrived last November, I heard my cow utter a low “moo”. Donkey backed away from the calf and out of the pen. I tried to close the gate after the cow, but she managed to wiggle past me. All of those warnings about getting between a cow and her calf passed through my mind, and I hopped over the fence into the next pen.
Within minutes, the two cows were headed down the field at a clip, with the one-day-old calf trotting along between them. Farmer Fisher came out of the house and stood on the porch, with his hands on his hips.
“Now that’s not exactly what I wanted, is it?” he muttered. We had planned to keep the calf in the barn with her mama for the first few days, so that we could get a good look at it (at this point we didn’t even know for sure if it was male or female) and so that it would be safe from hungry coyotes. But there they were, on Day 2, running out toward the second pasture.
I worried about the calf all day while I was at work. When we got home, the Farmer and I hopped on the ATV and took off down the field, in the direction of Betty and Ginger. “She’ll hide that calf in a thicket and leave it there for the day,” the Farmer said.
After circling the cows once, we went back into the first field and spotted Mocha. She was deep inside the thorn bushes, curled up in a chocolate-coloured ball beside the stone fence. She opened her eyes and blinked at us. I wanted her to come out and get something to drink. She must have been hot and dry, lying in that sun all day. We called her, but she wouldn’t move. She just stared at the two crazy humans who were trying to lure her out of the bush with clucking noises and whistles.
Farmer Fisher eventually had to crawl into the razor bush to guide her out. My husband will have to wear long sleeves for the next week or so. He looks as though he was in a scratching fight with a wildcat, and lost.
We stood there for a moment and watched as the young calf searched for a teat under her mother’s chin. I began to question the information I had read on the Internet about cows being intelligent.
The cows watched closely as we built a temporary fence to keep them in the first pasture. They may not be happy about having their wandering restricted, but at least they will be safe from Wile E. Coyote.
We were sitting on the back porch, enjoying the sunset when suddenly the three cows went rippin’ down the field, with Donkey in hot pursuit. He gnashed his teeth against the side of the calf and when Ginger tried to head-butt him, he chased her over the fence.
Apparently Donkey is somewhat jealous of our new addition and the attention that she receives. It would seem that the coyote is the least of our worries at the moment.
Farmer Fisher lured the cows with sweet feed, and penned them into the barnyard with the newly weaned lambs.
I can’t help feeling that we are restricting the cows from going to their favourite grazing grounds. Donkey wins the pasture, out of sheer nastiness. And the worst part of the situation is that he will likely get bored without the cows around, and take to biting the sheep again, for fun. The saga continues.
Last week, Farmer Fisher sheared the ewes and separated them from the lambs, a fact of which I’m sure our neighbours are keenly aware. The first two nights, the lambs cried for their mothers until they were tired and hoarse. The ewes wandered around on the other side of the barn, peeking through holes in the barnboard and answering their babies’ calls. They looked so sad, with their shaggy new haircuts. By the third night, the lambs had all found their water supply and comfortable beds in the hay. Now when I bring them bottles, they just chew holes in the nipples and baaaaa at me. They don’t need me anymore.
My job as wet nurse to 70 lambs is nearly done, for this year. As I look out at the fat leaping bundles of wool, I think I’ve done a pretty good job for my first season as a Farmwife.

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