She was not thrilled to have twin Angus calves, but we’ve been watching 3024 since they were born ten days ago, having gone so far as to make arrangements for bottle feeding one of them if necessary. As it turns out, the calf on the left was the one roused by two coyotes in our post of September 17th, when hours old and left in the middle of the pasture. It’s not unusual for a cow with twins to abandon the weakest, but now this cow seems to have acquiesced to her plight, both calves healthy and much stronger than they were. Whether she is keeping better track of them both, or the weaker calf is keeping better track of her is another question. She has plenty of milk and if she can raise them both, she’ll do a better job than we can do.
Thin grass fades
like awakening from a dream
to truckloads of hay
like any other day
of no rain—like nothing
I have ever seen.
We realize the practical importance of documenting our drought, its impact on the ranch and cattle, on us. Even in dry times, our life is rich with details, most all symbolically tied to moments of truth, some of which last for a long time.
Denial can be a dangerous thing with so many lives at stake, so many cattle waiting for rain. But now I doubt a rain could help the south and west slopes of brown native clay.
As we branded the calves this winter, we culled the cows for those that had turned old and thin since we culled them last summer, most without calves, bringing them off the mountain to allow more feed for the remainder that is holding better in our granite upper-country. By the end of branding field-by-field, we had collected a truckload where we fed them hay on the irrigated pasture of only dormant summer grasses.
Clarence and Robbin trailed behind the bunch slowly following the Kubota with its single bale of hay, each cow eagerly filing past me as we got closer to the feed grounds and corrals as I assessed them, judging fullness and fitness—how they’d look in the auction ring. Moving closer, they began to buck, kick and run with excitement, with just the thought of hay.
In the corral, Robbin assured me that she didn’t see anyone she was sorry to see go. We brought the cameras that we forgot about while crowding the cows up the foreign loading chute, reserved primarily for our annual crop of calves. Now old replacement heifers, they’d never seen a truck. “You can tell,” said Van Beek, the driver, after the first two drafts, “they are ranch raised.”
“I’ll take a rain or a calf anytime,” a saying I heard from Amy Hale Auker that I find especially applicable this year, one she heard from an old Texas cowman. And we’ll damn sure take twins as long as the cow can raise them.
While feeding yesterday, we found another set of twins, about a week old, on Top in the Greasy watershed. Looking much the same as 819’s pair HERE and HERE, it appears that 605 will raise them both. A little green showing at 2,400′.
The twins, now over a week old, are doing well as it appears that “819” will raise them both. Currently relegated to babysitting duties (outside the frame) while the other mothers are eating hay, she’s doing quite well keeping track of her own two calves.
I am reminded of my poem “IO” published in Poems from Dry Creek reprinted below:
On the horns of an infant moon,
the creek shrinks and pools
between sycamores and live oaks
as babies come to first-time mothers
bringing the bear tracks downcanyon
on the scent of spent placentas.
Black progeny of the river nymph –
white heifer driven madly by Hera’s
gadfly Oestrus to cross continents
and populate Asia – find maternity
perplexing at first. Yet, lick and nuzzle
the stumbling wet struggle to stand,
suckle and rest that enflames instinct
in all flesh. Worthy timeless worship,
no better mother ever than a cow.
Brought down from the Paregien Ranch before the branding as we reduced numbers in our upper country, we knew she was close. I noticed the fresh black white-faced calf off by itself most of Wednesday, worried that it was abandoned. Yesterday when we fed, she surprised us with twins, having collected them both. I’m guessing a Hereford father.
Plenty of milk, now we’ll see if she can raise them.