Just after sunrise on earth day, I took a walk to check on my herd and found Billie the cow (as in Billie Holliday) in labor. She had chosen a good, comfortable spot in the woods, and was close to delivering. I hung around and within 30 minutes, Billie had delivered a healthy and super cute little bull. All was well, so I headed out, giving Mama and baby time to bond.
A couple of hours later, I went back to check on the calf. His ear tag will be #1905, but this little bull got the nickname, BillieBoy. As I walked up to the spot where he was born, BillieBoy was all dry and sleeping with Mama nearby. A few of the older heifers saw me and took the opportunity to meet the newest member of the herd. Hazel, Heidi and Rita moseyed over and gave him a sniff. Billie was calm and relaxed, letting the younger cows close to her baby. Then for some reason, Hazel started to push the little guy with her nose. Once, twice, and then she rolled him over, seemingly trying to make him stand up. I was astonished, having never seen such treatment of a newborn calf by another cow. Billie was surprised too. She started moo’ing to her calf, calling him to come to her. But he was only a couple hours old, and not as energetic as some other calves. BillieBoy flopped around like a rag doll as Hazel continued to push him. I clapped my hands, yelled at the young heifers. Slowly the crowd dispersed, ending calf introductions before things got completely out of hand.
Mama Billie let out a sigh of relief.
At lunchtime, I headed back to the field for another check on the herd. This time, no one was in the woods, Billie had moved her baby. As I walked along the path towards the hill top pasture, there were a pair of ears above the grass, on the other side of the high tensile, electric fence! My heart skipped a beat, BillieBoy had scooted under a 16inch high fence. There was no way he had gotten there without being shocked. I had to get him back, without shocking either of us. I hurried through the woods to the Mountain field and threw the shutoff switch. Back to the sleeping calf, I carefully tried to slide him under the wire. Sliding a gangly, 70 pound calf is not as easy as it might seem, and just as I got on the other side, he rolled over. BillieBoy jolted awake and gave out a loud bawl, ‘Meoowooew”. Suddenly, from the edge of the pasture, every cow, heifer and calf came running, straight at me. Bella and Billie arrived first, their full udders swinging from the gallop, skidding to a stop 2 ft away with BillieBoy lying between us. Standing my ground, I explained to the ladies that no one was hurting the calf, that in fact, I trying to help him. Fortunately, my cows know and trust me so I survived the encounter.
Mama Billie gathered up her baby with several load moo’s, and they started off walking toward the waterer. I turned the electric fence on, and came back to the field just in time to see BillliBoy head straight for the two strand polywire on the opposite side of the pasture. At just 4 hours old with wobbly legs, he stumbled head first through the wire, getting shocked for the second time in his short life. I stared in disbelief, then ran all the way back to the Muntian field to turn the power off – again.
This time, after I pushed BillieBoy back through the fence, I let out a tirade directed at Mama Billie, “Take your dang calf away from the edge of the fields! Hide him in the middle where there is a perfectly fine stand of briars! Quit letting him get shocked before he can even properly walk!!”. Thankfully, she got the message, or at least decided to keep her new calf away from the crazy, screaming cowgirl at the edge of the pasture.
For the next 24 hours, BillieBoy spent most of his time in the briars with Mama close by, I was so relieved. By the following evening, he was standing on sturdy legs and starting to play with the older calves, a happy sight!