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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The emotional roller-coaster that is life on the farm.

 Early last week I went out on a mild pre-snow morning and found Julie's calf in the hay under the feeder.

The little thing was about the size of a black lab. I picked her up, waved her under mama's nose and backed myself up into the barn. Julie started to follow me in, but as I was tucking the calf into a stall I realized the bull had followed me in first. Just then the Farmer shows up. Why does he always show up just at the moment when I am royally screwing up?

"Great. Now how are you going to get him out of here?!" the Farmer inquired.Young Angus swung his big bull head around, bumping into the medicine cabinet and work shelf, threatening to knock them both to the floor. This is not the first time that I have thought, thank goodness he's a really tame bull. I scooped up some sweet feed, squeezed past him out the door and waited for him to negotiate a three-point turn back out of the barn. Then I had to do the whole bait-and-wait routine with the calf again, successfully luring Julie into the barn. Finally. I was exhausted.

On the way back through the barn, I stopped to fill up the water trough. Rambo came over to see what I was doing, and I patted him on the head. Big mistake. Next thing I know I'm on the ground, and my thigh hurts where Rambo has head-butted me. And I can see he's lining himself up for another hit. I jump to my feet, kick my leg in his general direction, and shriek something at him. I think the shriek startled him more than the kick did. His rock head is much harder than my shin. He was sizing me up for another smack, so I took off out of the barn, the big fat sheep hot on my heels. I jumped into the cattle chute and he finally wandered away, with an unmistakable swagger. I sat for a moment and let the adrenalin drain from my veins. In my five years knowing Rambo, he has never attempted to hit me. Then again, I usually tickle him under the chin. The Farmer says the pat on the head is a direct challenge to his ram-hood.

And then it was Ginger's turn to calve. I was first to notice her heading off on a tangent across the snowy field, for no good reason other than to search for the best place in which to give birth. Later that day she had settled for the barn, and she was starting to show signs of labour. We locked her in, but had to usher Young Angus out first. He didn't want to miss the show this time. He is always very interested in the new calves and stands staring at them for a long time after they are born. Sometime after midnight the Farmer went out and found Ginger with her new calf. He put the calf on a trolley and moved the new little family into a warm, dry lambing pen. Well it was dry, anyway. Now it's mucky and cold. But at least it's warmer than outside. We spent most of today trying to get Ginger's calf to suckle. The little guy just doesn't have the reflex and as time passes it is less and less likely that he will recover. I can get him to drink a bottle of milk replacer, but it just isn't the same. The Farmer managed to steal some valuable colostrum from Ginger (against her willshe wants to kill my husband with those big feet of hers) and fed it to the calf. He seems to have enough energy but that too will fade as the temperature drops if he doesn't start to suckle.

We gave him a shot of selenium and the Farmer has just run into town to get more Vitamin A, D and E. I will go out in another couple hours and feed him two more pints of milk replacer, but we may just be postponing the inevitable. Not all endings are happy ones on the farm.

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