Farmers are a resourceful bunch.
Take my son, Matthew, or the farmer, as we call him. His cattle operation is set up with a lot of options so that he has various shelters, feeding and watering spots for his animals.
But he moves them around a lot so I wasn’t surprised when an electric wire suddenly showed up next to the cabin we have on the farm in Missouri. He wanted some of his cattle who are about to calve to be confined where he could watch over them a little closer.
But the loud “maaaa,” I heard as I opened the door to go in was a little startling. There was the farmer, bottle feeding a calf in the cabin, next to the wood pellet burning stove. A mouthy calf it seemed.
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We have dogs that stay in there and a cat and a very personable mouse who shows up now and then but never before have we had a real farm animal.
But then again, I borrow a lot of stuff from the farmer so I guess it’s only fair that he borrow some of our stuff, like the place we stay when we are there.
The calf was premature, at least two weeks, and it had been with its mother in the woods a short distance away. It was weak and the new mother didn’t know what to do. So it came in for some food and some warming.
Through the years, my wife has seen her father bring in a number of animals that needed attention. She always fixed a bottle with a funny-looking large nipple on it and fed them. Through the worst of weather she would trudge down to the barn and faithfully feed her babies, invariably naming them Buster for males or Petunia for females. It was her favorite part of farming.
After Matthew finished feeding this latest calf he went to the house, leaving me and the calf warming in front of the stove. I went back to the bedroom to do something and after a while the calf came as well, calling in cow talk to see where I was. When I returned to the living room she came along. She curled up and went to sleep on a large pile of newspapers because while she was cute, she wasn’t housebroken.
Since then, she has been in and out as she tries to get healthy enough to survive. Considering that she really shouldn’t even be born yet, she has some catching up to do.
In the weeks to come there will be more calves born. Most will thrive from the start. But there always is a bottle baby or two. The best we can hope for is that this is our only special baby this year.
If not, it’s a good thing we built that great big calf warming house, complete with heating stove, refrigerator and bathroom facilities that we thought would be a cabin.