We have a 6-year old cow named Betty. She’s a good cow, a little bossy and all of her calves are born weaned or at least weaned within hours of being born.
A little story about Betty’s past calving experiences… When Betty was a heifer her reaction to her first calf 4 years ago was like some first calf heifers. She was not really interested. More of a ‘nope, not touching it – you want it cleaned and fed, well, you (meaning ‘you human’) can do that task’. You have to admit, they are kind of slimy and icky when they plop out onto the ground. She stood off to the side, looked around patiently waiting for someone else to tend to the task of cleaning and drying, like it was another cows problem. After all, it most certainly wasn’t hers. But we knew it was hers, we’d seen her calve so no denials. Eventually the other cows were moved out of the little pasture so Betty and offspring could go through some bonding. Time passed, all appeared well so we opened the gate back up. Then later we noticed no Betty. No big deal, cows will park their calves so they can go eat. She had not eaten several hours prior to calving so it was not really unusual, but 6 hours later… the calf wakes up, starts hollering and no mama comes running. She was out with the rest of the herd, as far away as she could get and had to be pushed in and penned so that the calf could nurse. After 24 hours all was well in the cow-calf world of Betty.
Her reaction was not really surprising behavior, first calf heifers can be a little weird. Some are a little confused about being a mama cow, not initially super maternal, but Betty appeared to be good mama as the days passed despite the rocky start.
Betty’s second calving year came around and she reacted pretty much the same as with her first calf. Just sat there like she was in ‘shock’ after birthing her calf… that can happen even with 2nd year heifers. They are still growing and learning. But she sat there with her little legs crossed patiently waiting for the attendants to take charge. We waited but it was around midnight and the temperatures were predicted to drop into the teens. At this point the thoughts of the lack of maternal instinct are going through our heads. By morning we weren’t sure he had nursed, no real obvious signs (like her udder being small) but he was trying. He hadn’t even been completely cleaned off. Sometimes young mamas and newborn calves have trouble hooking up but this was her second calf so she should be getting better at it.
And just like her first year calf Betty left him to go out with the rest of the herd and leave us to babysit. He started to bellow that he was hungry and the only mama to run in was CJ with her calf in tow to Betty’s bawling calf. She bellowed a few times but no Betty. CJ was a first calf mama at this time and started to let us know that ‘Betty so & so’ was out EATING all this time leaving her baby behind. In the racket of calf bawling and CJ bellowing, out we went to bring Betty back in to her calf. We are sure this is her last year here, we can’t have a cow not take care of her calves. Betty was forewarned that this was her fate… CJ let her know, too.
The words spoken by CJ, that if we could actually decipher cow language, would not have been very nice. Betty was unmoved and ended up in the pen with her calf for the maternal bonding experience. But two years of being somewhat a ‘bad mom’ was enough. Would she ever figure this out? Betty was given an ultimatum… ‘one more chance, Betty! Next season if you do not care of your calf you are going to the abattoir, immediately.’ Yes, we actually talk to our livestock. Sometimes they talk back but that is another post…
We know when Betty is bred. She gets a little moody, a little standoffish but soon is back to her old self of being a cow who likes to be scratched on the back or take an alfalfa cube from you. We wait another 8 months for the next round of calves.
All our cows are naturally bred and we note when the deed is done if observed, but most of the time it is a calculated guess based on the date of the turnout of our bull. Based upon the number of gestation days, as we get close to the possible due date for any of the ladies, we start to inspect them a lot more closely. How bouncy and loose their rear ends get, drop in the tailhead, udders getting full, separation from the herd, discharge, crooked and bend tails or lots of rapid tail swishing. Just a few signs we look for.
2020 calving season – we rode out to tag and weigh a calf at the far end of the big hay field. On the way back we rode by Betty. She was gently mooing, cleaning and snuggling a calf by her side. Talk about a show stopper. She did not show any signs of even being close to calving yet had a calf that appeared to be hers. This calf was completely dry and had nursed. It was active, bouncing about. Where did this calf come from? As we got closer to her it was positive it was her calf. She was motherly, softly mooing to the calf and acted like a ‘normal’ cow who just calved.
The only obvious answer was that Betty had snuck out and bought her calf. One that was already cleaned and one that she didn’t even have to birth. The only place in town that would have been opened early enough was the Sinclair gas station. They sell food, chips and stuff besides fuels – maybe the attendants liked her so much, she really is a nice cow, that they gave her a calf with her meal to go. But she snuggled and loved up her calf. Then we started to wonder if this was really Betty.
So now, finally, the question of this post is did Betty go to the Sinclair this year? With all the lock downs and such, it’s hard for a cow to social distance and wear a mask. Besides masks would make them look silly.
But the answer became known that, yes, Betty went to the Sinclair again in the early morning hours on May 1st. Meet her bull calf #115.
And, yes, he appears to be weaned already. Her calves are amazing! 🙂
Until next time –
One thought on “Betty went to the Sinclair…again”
Hopefully you don’t tell this story to your Doctor!