When we weaned her last year’s calf last May, we sorted the gray cow to an accessible pasture, so when time allowed we could bring her off the mountain to remove a horn that would soon be growing into her head. Four weeks ago after feeding the Greasy bunch, Terri and Lee let me know the horn was in her head. They chummed the small bunch she was with into the Gathering Field. Then about ten days ago, Robbin and I went up the hill and brought her down to the squeeze chute to remove her horn, thankful she had not calved yet.
We have several gray cows due to a combination of some recessive genes that have offered a little extra heterosis or hybrid vigor, both in size and maternal traits. Like the others, she’s gentle and stood cooperatively as I cut the end of her horn off with a pruning saw, smearing pine tar and applying ample commercial products to ward off flies.
I knew Saturday that she had had her calf, though I never saw it. She’d been sucked, showed telltale signs of afterbirth and hidden it somewhere in the tall grass of the irrigated pasture. On my way to shut my irrigation water off on Sunday, I saw her lying next to the fence, looking suspiciously like the calf was on the other side. The pastures are open to one another, but a day-old calf wouldn’t know that.
Before coming home, I thought I’d investigate, hoping for another gray heifer calf. Cord still wet, it was hiding in the grass and came to the Kubota, circling and bumping the machine, looking for breakfast. Having found fresh bear tracks along the creek, I wanted to see them reunited but not wanting to play too much cowboy, so I followed the pair at a distance on either side of the fence towards the gate.
When the calf left the fence to lay back down in the pasture, I left them alone to close an irrigation gate valve. As soon as I was out of the picture, the gray cow sailed through the gate to find her big bull calf.
Like most newborns, finding milk is often a process of ‘trail and error’.