As a rancher, I know, no matter how hard you try, there will always be one of those critters that picks at your heart strings a little harder than the rest. You will latch onto them like the abominable snowman and “George.” And no matter what they do or how they act, you will love them all the same.
My “George” is #3. She is an adorable lady. She also happens to stick out like a sore thumb amongst our herd. Why you ask? Because she is a red cow amongst a sea of black. Genetics have always fascinated me, but are a complicated subject. So to explain why she is red even though she had black parents; it goes back to recessive genes and more complicated lingo that I don’t care to dive into right now. Just know, that she could have been black, but she chose (well not really…but in my mind she did) to be different and for that…I have always liked her. To be the red cow in a herd of black.
It also helps that she is the sweetest lady. When caking, she stands patiently (no, I do not bake a cake and take it out to the cows. I have Distillers Cubes that I feed them for extra calories). She will stand and wait for her turn and for her patience, I normally reward her with a handful of cubes she doesn’t need to eat off the ground. Straight from the palm Baby!
As a rancher, you come to realization early on that no matter how hard you try, you cannot save every single animal on your place. You will try and it will break your heart, EVERYTIME. I know that and have been reminded that every time I get in the dumps about loosing one. That does not make it any easier of the load to bare.
So, March 17th rolls around. #3 is standing down in a grove of cedars. She’s doing little “mommy moos.” (I call them this for lack of better words. The cow before she calves will start quietly mooing and when the baby is born, she will do it to him too. Little I love Yous). Now, generally, when a cow starts doing these and secludes herself from the herd, it’s go time. But, the day ends without a calf.
I really didn’t give it any thought. Maybe she just needed to be alone. I mean, I need that time to myself. Next day, same thing. Next day, same thing. Now I’m getting worried. I call Hubs up (he really likes it when I call during work). “No. Three is acting strange,” I tell him. “Does she have any mucous?” He asks. “Nope. Just standing there. Looks like her bags full, but I can’t say as I’ve seen any signs of water breaking or anything.” I reply. “She’s fine. Leave her alone. See ya later.” Call ends.
Well, ok. So leaving her alone. Waiting for water to boil…same deal.
So now March 20th rolls around. It’s go time. I see a sack hanging out. I get all giddy. She is an excellent calver. She has HUGE calves every year with no problem. I decide she’s feeling too nervous with me watching, so I leave to go inside and eat me some chow. While there, I folded some laundry. About an hour and half later, I run out to check her. No hurry, she’s got this. Doesn’t need me.
What?!? She’s standing by the creek, drinking. “Well, she must have the calf hiding and came down to get a drink.” I run (haha…ok…drive the mule) around looking for a calf. No calf. Hmmmm. This is NOT good.
So I run home and grab Trusty Stead. We trot down and bring up mama. On the way up, my heart sinks. The fluid she is leaking is yellow instead of clear or blood tinged. I know that means the calf has defecated while in utero and that means that it is stressed. Get her in the head gate. Sleeve up and disinfect. I stick my arm in to find a tail and a butt. Now I know I’m in trouble. Calf is coming backwards. In these cases, you need to be quick or the calf with suffocate. I grabbed the side of the calf in utero and pinched hard. No response. Calf is dead. My heart dies inside. Now, I get to try to get a calf out, knowing that the reward is gone. It is gut wrenching. But I know, that it has to come out.
This calf is big and it is backwards. So now, I have to push the butt back out of the canal and try to grab a foot and pull it up into the canal, then the other foot. However, I am 5’4″ and though I was standing on the rails and trying like heck, I could not even grab a foot, hardly could grasp a flank. Because of the way the calf was positioned I could not physically get in the womb far enough to do any good.
Here again, I’m on the phone. Though this time it’s to the neighbors. “Hey Troy, are you super busy? Well, I got an issue. I have a calf backwards and my arms are not physically long enough to grab the feet to pull the calf. Is there any way that you could swing over and give me a hand?” THANK GOD FOR GOOD NEIGHBORS! Troy was able to get in there and manipulate the calf enough to get the feet around and he could pull it then. Just then, neighbor #2 shows up…always good to have a backup.
I weighed the heifer calf and she was a little over 120 pounds. Big Girl. But she didn’t make it. She was dead before she hit the ground. Poor #3 was devastated. She walked around mama mooing for hours. She tried to claim the lambs, then latched onto the pig…much to the pig’s dismay. The pig finally abandoned ship and broke through the fence to get away from the cow.
Now in these situations, you can do a few different things. One of which is to get a calf to graft onto her. I looked around to several places, but I couldn’t see paying what they were asking for a bucket calf when the price of calves has gone down considerably and shows no promise of going back up to where it was last year. I would be paying over half of what a feeder calf was worth for a day old baby. Takes too much profit to do something along those lines.
So as much as I HATE to see her go, instead of looking for a calf for the cow, I’m looking for a home with calves for the cow or at least one that she can be rebred and calve for someone else. Economically, it is not feasible for us to keep her without a calf. Pastures are a scarce resource and high priced commodity. She would be eating too much and not raising anything to pay that bill. It’s like going to the grocery store and charging your account everyday and at the end of the year, not paying your bill. Store manager (me) is not gonna be happy footing your bill all year without anything to show for it.
The thought of her being sold for slaughter at the age of eight breaks my heart. She raises a phenomenal calf every year and is just too dang sweet. It was not her fault that the calf came backwards and so I hold nothing against her. But I do hold myself accountable for the calf’s loss as I should have known things weren’t going well from the get go. All the signs were there, I just chose not to listen. I pray I can find her a good home where she can have a second chance. She’s too good of a “George” to just let go.