If only …

So, this actually happened earlier this week, on April 30-May 1. I have only now felt capable of putting the story into words. In the aftermath, Bill asked me, “How many calves have we raised?”. I checked my books, and calculated that since we have started keeping cattle, 31 calves have been raised here. 30 were born on the farm, plus Willow, who arrived at 6 hours of age. Of those 31 calves, we have saved three from the brink of death. On May 1, I lost my first calf.

At 4pm on April 30, I checked the herd. Lucy was standing on the border of the woods and pasture, showing signs of labor. Lucy is an experienced mama, so I was excited at the prospect of a new calf. Just before dark, around 8:30pm, I drove back to the field to check on Lucy. She was in the same spot, with no further progress. Thinking all was well, I headed home leaving nature to take its course. At 7am the next morning, we headed back to the field. As I walked to the woods I saw Lucy standing, clearly having given birth. But there was no calf beside her, and she looked stressed. Instantly, I knew something was wrong, and I ran to Lucy, desperately looking for the calf.

And then I saw the him, a perfect bull calf still half wet and lifeless, his legs tangled in the lower strand of the polywire. Not thinking, I tried to free him, not quite believing that he was already passed saving, but I was too late. Poor Lucy started fretting, bringing the rest of the herd to the area. We immediately made the decision to move the herd back to the Mountain field, so the remaining expectant mama’s would not calve around any polywire fencing.

We buried calf #1906 in the woods under in a grove of poplar trees. Lucy stayed away from the rest of the herd, hanging in a stand of woods until today, when she finally joined the other cows.

I have been heartbroken, waking each morning thinking of Lucy and that poor calf. Going over and over in my mind, if only ..

… if only I had disconnected the electrics, maybe he would’ve lived until I could untangle him.

… if only I had moved Lucy to the Mountain field to have her calf.

… if only I had not used the lower line of polywire, he would have not gotten tangled.

… if only I had stayed with Lucy that night while she calved.

I know and have heard many stories from farmer friends, every cattle farmer loses a calf or cow, it happens. But when it does happen, the lesson is a harsh one.

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