One of the joys and challenges of farming is not knowing what you will find when you step into the field each morning. Twins!
They are somewhat rare for cattle, and as we soon heard from another farmer, you often lose one. The little heifer was up and about, somewhat confused and trying to suck on any animal standing still. But mama was kicking her off. And then the little bull calf, clearly the focus of mama’s attention, was listless. So we wait and watch to see what will unfold — best not to intervene needlessly. After a couple of hours without any signs of mamma nursing either calf, we activate our emergency plan. We steal the calves in the ATV and head towards the barn. Mamma follows the script of trailing along, in huffing indignation. Once in the barn, we secure mamma in the squeeze chute and bring the calves to nurse. The heifer shows a fine enthusiasm, but the milk is not coming much, and the bull calf’s nursing gene has clearly not kicked in. We try various positions with him, and finally are able to coax him to take a few sucks. But none of this is enough. So we start to thaw the spare gallon of colostrum we have kept for such an emergency. Calves need this within the first few hours to establish healthy immune systems, and basically to survive. It’s an immune system in a bottle at this point. We get maybe a quart down each little throat, using the calf bottle, and resolve to try again later.