At Home on the Range: Never give up
April 14, 2006
by Jody White
Every so often we end up with a calf without a permanent mother. No matter how hard we try to foist him off on a heifer or cow that has lost a calf, it just doesn’t take. This year it wasn’t that the calf had a problem with any of his assorted trial moms, it was the mothers that had a problem with the calf! We tried anything and everything in our desperate attempts at grafting calf to cow. Who wants to be faced with being tied down to a bucket calf all spring and summer? Not me!
Although a pain in the you know what, Mikey did have one redeeming quality. He was aggressive and he could eat. I named him for the kid on TV that advertised some kind of cereal. Remember … “Give it to Mikey. He’ll eat anything!”? So much for the magic of advertising if all I can remember is the name of the kid and not the cereal!
Mikey, the calf, was born big, and born hungry. But as luck would have it, his mom didn’t give enough milk to cover the bottom of a bucket. So the first month of his life was spent under a different heifer every feeding. Whatever heifers we happened to have in the barn at the time became surrogate mothers for at least one feeding, whether she liked it or not. Which in most cases she didn’t! So I would have to put the heifer in the stanchion so Mikey and his newly acquired, although temporary brother or sister could nurse. But man did that get old fast.
I finally broke down and bought a sack of calf replacement milk. It didn’t matter to him whether breakfast or dinner came in a cow or a bucket! The minute he saw me come in to the barn he would start salivating. He knew mealtime wasn’t far away. Bawling, butting and nuzzling anything … posts, stall boards, other calves, the dog, he would be in a feeding frenzy before I even got him anything to eat! The only tough job I had after stanchioning whatever cow or heifer that was handy was calming Mikey down long enough to point him in the right direction.
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I couldn’t fill him up. He was a bottomless pit, insatiable, a ball of black hair on four hollow legs. He got to where after he would nurse something out he wanted to top it off with a bucket of milk replacer. I will admit, though, he did come in pretty handy for any cows we had to bring in that were giving too much milk for their own calves or had sick calves and needed to be milked out. Even after he would gorge himself he would still look around for the bucket.
After two earlier attempts at grafting him on heifers that had lost calves (neither of which wanted him if slamming him up against the stall walls or trying to kick his head off was any indication) I was getting desperate. There were no new possible moms in sight; the heifers were all calved out. Then, one day, Butch brought home an old cow that had lost a calf. It had come premature. Deciding it couldn’t hurt to at least try to get the cow to take Mikey, we prepared to skin the dead calf and make a coat for him. Problem was there wasn’t enough hide on the calf to even make a t-shirt much less a coat … a handkerchief, maybe. So disregarding plan A, I moved right along to plan B, telling myself it probably wasn’t going to work, but wanting to believe that it would. I cornered Mikey behind a gate and dumped two gallons of warm mineral oil and water all over him. Then I preceded to sprinkle, no, make that pour, almost a whole bottle of O-NO-MO over his head back and rear end. The old cow eyeballed him, sniffed, licked, then kicked, and then repeated the pattern all over again. After three hours of sniffing, licking, and kicking, she finally accepted him. Hallelujah!
The moral to this story is never give up! Never give up! There is always a way!