A one week old calf who’s mother unfortunately died. Over the next six months you will see his progress, growth, personality and how he will become the newest long term member on our farm.
Mum was found in the paddock sitting up against the fence away from the herd. She was in the same spot the day before, so that was when I realised that something was not right. Her one week old calf was sitting next to her, dry nose, her stomach hollow and his eyes a little sunken due to dehydration. I immediately called the vet and tried to get the cow up to the stockyard for treatment, but she wouldn’t walk very far and I was told that unless I got her up into the stockyard the vet would not be able to treat her which really pissed me off because I could see that she needed help. My husband was on his way home that night, so an appointment was made for first thing the next morning. All I could do was leave her and the hungry calf in the paddock and by the time the vet arrived, she had deteriorated to the point where she could hardly stand and ended up having to be treated in the paddock anyway. She was treated with everything that was available and given a ten percent chance of survival. She was dead an hour later and her calf was huddled up against her motionless body, sleeping as nothing was wrong.
Having to pick the calf up and take him away from his Mum was a very sad thing. He didn’t know what was going on but didn’t struggle and accepted what was happening. He sat on my husbands lap in the farm scout as we drove towards the house. Eyes wide and nose sniffing the strange smells, he was calm but you could tell that he was a little frightened. The first thing that we did was give him some powdered calf milk from a bottle. At first he refused it but I made low mooing sounds and stroked him like a mother cow would groom her calf and eventually he accepted the rubber teat and began to drink.
We brought the old dog kennel into where he had decided to settle in the yard and placed it behind the shed in between the fence and a big water storage tank. Outside of the kennel I made a bed of hay for him to sleep on and provided some water in case he got thirsty. I went out about a half an hour later and found him hiding in the kennel asleep.
You can see that his nose is sore from dehydration. Over the next couple of days that will heal and the outer dead layer of skin will peel off. He developed milk scours by the evening. Changing from fresh cows milk to commercial powdered calf milk usually does that as their stomachs take a while to get use to it. There were little bits of blood in his poo as the scours can irritate the lining of the bowel. There wasn’t much so I held off giving him any anti-biotic. I wanted to wait and see how he went before I gave it to him as I was concerned that any good bugs in his stomach that he had developed from his mothers milk would be killed by the medication. Instead I made up some electrolytes, which thicken in the stomach like jelly, which allows slow absorption of fluids to stop further dehydration. He drank that ok and we left him to sleep in her little corner of the yard.
The next morning the scours had slowed down but instead of giving him only milk, I gave him half milk and half electrolytes in two seperate bottles. He drank both and looked much better. His eyes were no longer sunken and his nose was wet again. By that evening the scours had stopped and he was doing well, but I kept him on the electrolytes just to make sure.
Day three and his manner towards me was much calmer, so I laid down on the hay with him and spoke softly saying his name and reassuring him. In the beginning he would flinch whenever I touched him. By mid morning he was way more relaxed and accepting of my hand stroking him. I’d been trying to think of a name for him.
At first for whatever silly reason we thought that he was a heifer and named him Penelope aka Penny. I was giving him a belly scratch and came across a sack between his hind legs. On closer inspection it was confirmed that Penny was a bull calf not a heifer calf and so the reason why there has been a name change. A monumental mistake that makes me look like a complete idiot 😆
I am now proud to introduce you to GRA PENTHEUS aka Benny the bull.
This morning he drank 2.5 litres of milk and any sign of the scours have completely gone. After spending hours yesterday with him, I am pleased to say that Benny is now happy, content and enjoying life. He didn’t even lift his head when I approached to take a photo. He has accepted me and has no problem getting up and coming baling over to be fed. After his feed this morning we went for a bit of a stroll around the garden. Sapphire our dog, two cats and one of the local king parrots, who has made our yard home, hung around with us. He even kicked up his heels a bit and ran across the lawn. He’s finally settled in and feels at home in his new surroundings.
Thursday 1st November 2018
Benny is doing well, we have bonded and he enthusiastically drinks until he has had enough. Fussy though, every other calf I have raised gulped down the milk within a couple of minutes. Benny has an initial ongoing suck for about half the bottle, then mucks around for the rest, taking three or four sucks then letting go of the teat. I have to be patient, but I am starting to think that two feeds a day of 2.5 litres, as instructed by just about everything I’ve read and on the milk powder packet itself, is too much at once for him. So I am going to split the two feeds into three and give him 1.8 litres, the size of one bottle, and see how he goes.
It started to rain at the end of the feed, interrupting our after feed cuddle, so I decided to try and build a bit of shelter over his little spot. He has an entire yard to roam around in, but from the start he preferred to hide behind the water tanks behind the shed. I left him standing on the grass and went off to find something to use to put between the fence and the dog kennel. Searching around I came across a old For Sale sign in the machinery shed, had to manhandled a bunch of spare paddock gates out of the way, and carried the bit of tin back. Obviously he didn’t like the water droplets hitting him, something he hasn’t experienced since birth as it hasn’t rained here for a while, so he’d gone and hidden in the dog kennel again.
I’m not much of a builder but I managed to construct a reasonably secure verandah from what I could find. It’s not glamorous, but at least it will keep the bed outside the kennel dry.
We do have a shed for sick animals out in the stockyard, but when they are this young, I prefer them to be in the safety of the yard where Sapphire can protect them from any foxes that might like to try and have a go. We have a real fox problem here, mainly due to our neighbour not keeping his blackberries under control and we have had many calves fall victim to them and now get around without a tail. If Mum is off passing her afterbirth or the calf gets sick, a fox can prey on the defenceless newborn, starting from the rear and keeping on going all the way up into the bowel if not disturbed. I hate foxes and we do our best to keep them under control as much as possible. We have a good friend who comes here weekly with his guns and takes care of them. It is not uncommon for Brian to shoot one or two a week and has been doing so now for a number of years. He roams the paddocks of a night and occasionally concentrates on the area around the house yard. As seen here in the photo below.
That photo was taken during the time when the foxes were coming into the yard every evening and snatching one of the hens, when the hens would be hanging around the chicken shed having their last minute feed of grass and bugs before roosting. They became so cunning that even Sapphire guarding them was futile. If she sat in one spot, they’d come in from another direction. It got to the point where one of us would have to go out each evening and stand there on guard for an hour or two. Eventually Ears spent two full days stapling wire around half the lower part of the yard and has made a huge part of our garden into a run. So far we haven’t lost any more hens, so the effort Ears put in was worth it.
The lunchtime feed today was fun. Went out with the bottle and found him still asleep in the kennel.
He was pretty excited to see me and got straight up.
I had to coax him out.
Notice how lovely and wet his nose now is. No problems with dehydration or scouring any more. He was pretty satisfied with only a litre, then pretty much demanded some attention from me. I’m pretty sure we have bonded. I know I’ve become pretty attached to the little mite.
Lots of cuddles and affection, then it was time to have an afternoon nap, this time under his new shelter.
Monday 5th November 2018
Over the last couple of days Benny has started to roam around the yard more. He has met and sniffed just about every cat and the dog and her confidence and cheekiness is growing. I had a bit of a giggle when he walked up to the dog to say hello and Sapphire got scared and ran away. Benny started chasing the dog and was kicking up his heels and jumping around in play before losing his balance, falling over and face planting into the grass. He got up, eyes wide like the devil was after him and took off again. He’s still trying to find his legs and is still pretty wonky on his feet, but every day he gets better at it. Calves are so funny at this age, they are so uncoordinated and are all legs. Sapphire went and sat a distance away where she was safe to watch what was going on and not be harassed by Benny.
Benny’s feeds have changed and he is now drinking around 2.7 litres in the morning, 1.8 litres at lunchtime and another 1.8 litres at night. Normally calves are fed twice a day but Benny seems to need a midday feed and yesterday for the first time since he joined us, he let off a moo at lunchtime calling me for his bottle. It won’t be long before I’ll be hearing that first light and have to get out of bed earlier. At the moment I’m taking advantage of that because I know once it starts, they’ll be no sleeping in for the next five months. Benny has filled out a bit and is looking really good.
His nose which was really sore from dehydration has completely healed as well.
Thursday 8th November 2018
Everything is going well for Benny. He has finally started to learn to drink with less fuss and is having roughly 9 litres of powdered calf milk a day. It has been pretty wet here, an inch yesterday and a good downpour early this morning. His shelter has been his favourite place and I am pleased to say that it held up in the wind and didn’t come crashing down upon him during any one of the many storms that hit us.
It was quite a chilly morning and Benny reluctantly got up from her warm spot under his shelter to have his morning feed. Over the past couple of days I have been teaching him to come when I pat my leg and follow me from around the back of the shed and have his feed next to the house. There’s a good spot on a landing where I can sit at the right level for the bottle and it is semi protected by a thick tree. The same place where Victor, Jemma and Isobel were given their feeds every day.
I could see him trembling a little but I let him finish his drink. Because it was so wet, I had put an old towel down to sit on and decided to use it to try and block the wind from making him cold. It didn’t phase him too much but he was frozen to the spot. I patted my leg motioning for him to come to me across the grass but he just stood there with the cutest look of confusion about what was this thing on my back. I could not stop laughing at him but at least the shivering had stopped. I went back inside to get my camera and returned to find that he had not moved an inch. It wasn’t until I removed the towel that he moved. The moment it was removed he was off. Several laps of the yard, a bit of cat chasing and a grand display of aerial jumping was performed. I think that he was happy to be free of the thing.
I just had to get a selfie, he is so adorable.
The difference between an unfed calf and a calf that has had a feed is fairly obvious to most farmers. But to those of you who might one day need to know what the difference looks like I have taken a before and after shot of Benny.
You can see in the photo on the left that his stomach is flat and there is a definite hollowness in front of his pelvis. The photo on the right shows that his belly is round and the area at the back is not as hollow any more.
Monday 12th November 2018
Benny is thriving and has finally settled into a two feed a day regime and is drinking with more gusto and less fuss. He is now consuming 5.4 litres twice a day, way over the suggested 2 x 3 litres which is written on the packet of calf milk powder for a calf his age. He is starting to nibble on the clovers in the lawn and stands next to where I sit and give him the bottles and moos looking for me through the window of the house when he wants his feed. How could you refuse a face like that.
Wednesday 14th November 2018
It’s cold and wet here today but that didn’t stop Benny from having his morning exercise.
Thursday 15th November 2018
It was a big day for Benny today. I moved a herd into the paddock next to the house and took him into the paddock to socialise. At first he was a bit reluctant, but I walked down to the herd with him and he followed me staying very close until he got his confidence.
Isobel was the first on the scene to come and give him a sniff. Poor Benny dropped to the ground and was a little scared but Isobel was gentle with him and started licking him like he was her own.
Once the introductions was done with the cows, Benny wandered over to the only other calf in the paddock and the little bull was infatuated with him. He wouldn’t leave him alone and followed him everywhere.
Eventually they both got tired of chasing each other around the paddock and settled down together for a snooze.
I left them alone and went back about an hour later to find them both still sleeping. My presence woke them up and Benny decided to go exploring again. This time he headed back up the hill and went and said hello to Alley, but he didn’t get too close.
Ive left him out in the paddock with the gate slightly open into the yard in case he wants to come back in. I’ll be interested to see if he does, or chooses to remain with the herd. Note: I went out with the torch around midnight and he had come back into the yard and was curled up sleeping under his shelter. He’s so gorgeous!
Friday 16th November 2018
I have given Benny a new nickname… Bunter boy!
Normally a calf his age should drink 3 litres twice a day along with grass and calf pellets. Today he has consumed 4.4 litres in the morning and a whopping 7 litres for his night feed after spending the day out and in the paddock eating grass with the other cows 😆
Friday 23rd November 2018
Benny has spent the last week out in the paddock. He’s been coming in at feed time, having his 7 litres twice a day then wanting to go back out and join his friends. He’s grown heaps, at least a couple of inches so I must be feeding him enough.
Yesterday the weather here turned very wet and cold and he spent the night once again with the herd but was shivering so bad by this afternoon in the non stop rain and wind, that I made the decision to bring him onto the balcony near the gas heater. Once I’d dried him with a towel, he stood motionless right next to the warmth for a half an hour until the shivering stopped.
Benny is now 3 months old and doing really well. I am still substituting his feeds with 7.5 litres of milk and he is on paddocks which still have a green pick even though it’s been very hot and dry.