We hadn’t been farmers for long and cows birthing was something that I hadn’t seen very often and didn’t really know what to look for. I had this cow, her name was Uma, and she was hanging around the bottom of the paddock all morning looking like she’d lost something. I kept an eye on her as I had my suspicions that she was calving and was concerned that she might be too close to the dam. So I went down to where she was and tried to shoo her away. I managed to get her to leave, but by the time I had walked back up the hill she was back in the same spot again. Not knowing what to do next, I decided to just keep watch as I didn’t have the confidence to do anything else.
It was my birthday, and I’d had a bunch of visitors throughout the day bringing me presents and well wishes and was in pretty good spirits. Around 2pm my best friend turned up and I got distracted for about half an hour talking when I thought I better check on Uma. I went out onto the balcony and looked for her. I could see her standing next to the dam chewing on something. I got all excited because I had been told that a bag comes out before they calf and assumed that was it. So I ran back inside announcing to my friend that Uma was going to have her calf on my birthday and grabbed the camera.
I headed straight down to the paddock where she was and looked at what she was chewing and my heart sank. No it wasn’t the bag that comes out first it was the afterbirth and the calf was nowhere to be seen. Frantic I called the farmer who we bought the property off, who had kindly offered his help any time, and asked if he could come and have a look at her. On arrival it was pretty obvious to him that yes she had calved and that the most likely scenario was that the calf had fallen into the dam and drowned. Dennis and his wife Jennifer, who had come out as well to lend a hand, helped me get her into the stockyard. She was adamant that she had a calf somewhere and it took all of us a lot of yelling and shooing to get her up. She kept running back to the spot where she had given birth. Eventually she got too tired to fight and reluctantly left the paddock. Dennis checked Uma out and confirmed the worst, yes she had already given birth. Being one of my herds initial first calves and it being on my birthday I was devastated. I think I may have cried for the better part of an hour before having to put on a happy face and go to my mums for my birthday dinner. You can see in this next photo the strained smile while cutting my cake. It was the worst birthday ever.
Before Dennis and Jennifer left, Dennis put his arm around me and could see that I wasn’t coping very well and said “It’s ok Chris, we will get her another baby.” And true to his word the next day I received a phone call from him letting me know that he had tracked one down and gave me directions to a dairy farm.
The dairy farmer was waiting for me and as I walked towards the shed with him I could see this little black and white bundle sleeping in some hay. A donation was given and the little calf was put into the back of my 4WD. The farmer laughed at me as I had brought blankets and an old dog bed to put him in. I don’t think he was quite use to having someone so green to farming buy an animal from him. Normally a bull calf like this one would be sent off to be killed. He was amused at how much I pampered the calf and said “It’s good that you are doing this but you do realise that he’s a dairy animal and you won’t be able to eat him.” I was horrified that he said such a thing but eternally grateful that he had helped me out, thanked him and drove off with the little boy in the back of the car all wrapped up in his blankets.
Unfortunately I had to go to my sons parent teacher interview on the way home and had no other choice but to take the calf with me. I remember leaving him in the back of the car for an hour hoping that he didn’t chew my seats or something like I’d seen dogs do when left unattended. I’m telling you, I was so green to all of this and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d never handled a small calf before or transported one anywhere. After the interview was over I quickly went back to the car and found the calf hadn’t moved and was oblivious to everything going on around him. He was still curled up, sleeping like a baby in his little bed with blankets on top. It was definitely an awwww moment and I couldn’t wait to get him home.
The night before I had spent time googling how to introduce a calf to a cow when it isn’t hers and had read all about skinning the dead calf and draping the skin over the new calf but couldn’t do that because her calf was most likely on the bottom of the dam. I’d also read that if you put talcum powder on the calf and the nose of the cow that worked. All the stress of what was going to happen was not a problem, Uma was convinced that she was suppose to have a calf and as soon as she saw the little bugger she immediately accepted him. I can still remember the tears that she shed that day while she busily licked and groomed her precious baby. She had been calling for her calf all night, and was very emotional once it finally was given to her. The only other thing to do was give him a name. Lucky the Fresian steer was what we came up with as he was indeed a very lucky boy not to be sent off to the glue factory. Every day I would wake up and look out the window down to the dam. On day seven I noticed it had floated back up to the surface and my husband went and retrieved it. Uma had given birth to a beautiful little heifer.
Uma was a fantastic Mum. She raised Lucky and he stayed on her until he was twelve months old. Probably the reason why he grew so big. We have always allowed calves to stay on their mothers until they pretty much wean themselves. Somewhere between ten and twelve months, then a fence is put between them so they cannot drink but still see each other. The separation is usually no big deal as most of them have weaned themselves anyway by that time, and the rest would take roughly twenty four hours before the mooing for each other through the fence would stop.
Lucky grew up with other red Angus calves and a herd of Black Angus steers that we had bought at a market. He was one of the boys and the only one with a name.
By the time he was fully grown Lucky was six foot three. I could stand on the balcony and call him from several paddocks away and he would always lift his head and answer me. He was such a gentle giant. Never once did Lucky ever show any sign of aggression and was a great mentor for every steer that was put in with him. All I had to do was call him and he would lead the younger steers through the gate and into the next paddock. Drenching and vaccinations had to be done in the paddock as Lucky was way too big for the stockyard, but he was always very good about it and never gave us any trouble.
You can see in this next photo just how big he was compared to the others. The animal on the far left is Spook, a fully grown Red Angus Steer who we kept as a mate for Lucky. The two of them were inseparable and would always be together in the paddock.
Lucky was with us for fourteen years before he developed an eye cancer. Unfortunately the vet could not do anything to help him and so the most humane thing was done and Lucky was put down by a friend with a deer rifle. He did not feel a thing and it was instant. RIP Lucky our gorgeous Fresian steer. To this day I still miss him, he was one of the many members of the herd who I grew attached too. But at least he had a wonderful life and lived out his days on a farm with plenty of feed and plenty of room to roam enjoying himself.