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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lucky Number 13

Up until this week, he had twelve head of cattle. Every night the Farmer would go out and count heads, making sure no one was missing in action. Then, last month on Friday, February 13th, number thirteen was born. Unfortunately, the number wasn’t lucky for him. He was a very big calf and we suspect he died in the birth canal. The mama, Gina (thus named for the big curl on her head that makes her look like Gina Lollobrigida) was released from the barn to rejoin the herd. The other cows didn’t treat her very well for a day or two. Maybe she smelled different to them. In any case, a month later, she is still trying to fit in but I often see her off by herself. There seems to be some shunning going on.
This week we had another Friday the 13th and, one month to the day, another calf was born. It isn’t normal for us to have a gap of a month between calf births. We were certain the other calves would come in succession after the first one (the Farmer says the first birth in the season is always a disaster – it rang true with our sheep as well). We left instructions for our farm-sitter when we went on vacation and every day I texted him from the beach: “How many head of cattle?”  And his reply: “Still only 12.”
It was a relief, because I would hate for his first farming experience to be traumatic, with too-big calves being stuck during birth and having to be pulled out against their will to enter the -35 degree Canadian winter.
So on the morning of March 14th the horse was acting strange. She was running up and down the field, snorting and tossing her mane. Then the Farmer pointed out the new calf. That was what Misty was trying to tell us. Mocha had given birth some time during the night, and her calf was up and nursing, springing around and loving life.
After an introductory photo and video session I noticed the other cows were not being very friendly to the little bull calf. He would get confused and try to nurse on someone who wasn’t his mother and they would respond most rudely with a sharp kick to his side. I talked the Farmer into putting a rope around the calf and hop-stepping him to the stable, where he and his mother could bond for a few days.
I’ll admit, this may not have been the best idea. Normally we bring the new cows (or the ones in labour, if we can get them on time) into the barn to bond with their babies. But the stable was closer and easier to access. Misty, the usual occupant of the stable, was not at all impressed with the development. There are plenty of other spots in the barn for her to find shelter, so that wasn’t the issue. But her sweet feed is in the stable. And she was absolutely sure that cow and her calf were in there, eating it. She could smell it. (I admit I did give Mocha a scoop of molasses corn-candy for good behaviour).
Misty did some more moaning and complaining outside the stable and when nothing came of it, she decided to put the run on the other cows. The Farmer and I were in the barn with the second cow to go into labour when we heard the stampede. It was quite a dangerous situation, with the 1800-lb. horse chasing the pregnant, uncoordinated cows over icy patches of unlevel ground, where they could easily slip or trip, breaking a leg or miscarrying. I went out to confront Misty.
We had an exchange of sorts. I yelled NO, smacked my leather mitts together and stomped my feet and she just stared at me, giving repeated snorts and tossing her mane. She also stomped her foot at one point. Talk about a hissy fit.
I know she understood me. Every time I go to the barnyard she follows close on my heels, as if pleading her case. But she stopped chasing the cows. I will not be manipulated by a horse. And she’s not getting back into her stable until Mocha is finished with it, in another day or two.

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