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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Baby's Day Out

Ginger and her baby were making a right mess of the lambing area. We had already moved them twice - from the smaller to the bigger pen and then out into the open section of the barn - each time they completed the muckification of their living area.

When no amount of coarse hay thrown down would better the situation it was time to move them again.

Ginger made it obvious that it was time for her to receive an eviction notice when she heaved her chest onto the sheep feeder to reach the hay bale on the other side, busting the feeder to smithereens.

We waited 'til morning, when the sun rose on a clear, mild winter day. The Farmer opened the door to the barn and I tried to lure the calf out. No way.

He had never been out before and wasn't about to go now without a little coaxing. My husband wasn't all that thrilled about going into the confined area with Ginger (who had recently tried to kill him) but it was the only way to get them out so in he went. Ginger quickly stepped out the door and her lamb was pretty quick to follow.

Once outside, Ginger turned and looked back at the barn. I think she was realizing she had given up easy access to food and water. The calf stood blinking at the blinding sun.

Then he took one step onto the ice and did a big Bambi slide onto his bum.

For the next two hours, he wandered around the barn, poking in corners and skittering across the ice.

I hooked up his milk bottle but he just sniffed at it. I think his nerves got the better of his appetite.

Young Angus, our bull, wandered over to examine the bottle where I had hooked it to the side of the outdoor pen. He rubbed his skull against it, up and down, until it fell into a pile of muck on the ground. "Thanks, Angus," I said, picking the bottle up and rinsing it in a clean puddle of water. I moved the hook over to the other side of the pen.

Angus slowly wandered around the half-wall and repeated his head-rubbing routine to knock the bottle down again.

At this rate, the calf was never going to get his milk.

I went back into the house and reported to the Farmer, who agreed that the calf would have to have access to his bottle or he just wouldn't survive.

Later that afternoon we cornered the calf, the Farmer lassoed him and we wrestled him back into the lambing room where he was born.

I opened the door to the one remaining clean pen and gently shoved him in.

He let out one long, plaintive wail when he realized his mother wasn't with him.

Ginger, who hadn't been all that interested in her calf when she realized he wasn't going to suckle, suddenly wanted to get into the lambing room with him.

She pushed on the barred door and pawed at the ramp outside.

She bellowed and wailed and stood staring me right in the eye when I went out to fill the water trough.

"He doesn't need you, Ginger. And you just make a mess," I told her.

She went back to stand outside the door of the barn, confused. Her mooing got a little softer. I could hear the calf in the barn, rustling around, but he didn't return her call.

Once happily ensconced in his own plush pen, the calf (whom I have been calling Baby), got back into this bottle-drinking routine.

He only likes the milk when it's warm, however, so you have to get him when he's hungry.

We also gave him some sweet hay, a bucket of water and a handful of sweet feed, to awaken his senses.

He likes the water, and nibbles on the hay.

When I go in to refill his bottle, he is lying in the corner, chewing his cud. "Oh look at you, all grown up, chewing your cud," I told him.

He got up, did a big cat stretch and wandered over to the corner to drink his warm bottle of milk.

We have about two more weeks of solid bottle feeding before he can start relying on hay and grain as his main food sources.

I'm amazed he has lasted this long. And I'm getting way too attached to this animal.

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