Pitts: He ain’t ugly, he’s my brother
October 20, 2017
I am told the golden eagle usually lays two eggs several days apart. Sadly it is true that the older and larger chick usually kills its younger sibling to avoid having to share food with it.
Farm animals should be so smart!
Simultaneous siblings seem to tolerate each other well enough except at feeding time. Then it's everyone for himself or herself.
The worst feeding frenzy I've ever witnessed involved a pair of rambunctious lambs and their one-bagger mom. What usually happens in the case of multiple births is that all the offspring combined won't weigh at weaning what one good animal would.
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Adding insult to injury, why does it always seem to be the same malnourished momma who is "blessed" with multiple births? Our cow No. 34 was so fond of bad luck that it was always running halfway to meet her … in the form of plural progeny.
Despite the fact that No. 34 had given birth to three sets of twins, she still looked like a million … every year of it, in fact. She had to stand in the same place twice to cast a shadow and if she wasn't bound in leather you just knew she'd fall apart.
So, naturally she'd be the one to have twins on a regular basis.
One year's crop was especially malnourished. Like her, No. 34's calves were blacker than midnight which was about the only time she could stand to look at them.
They had little topknots on their oversized heads and stood knee high to a crouching Border Collie. Next to them, a sick kitten looked robust.
They were hollow in the flanks, their hair was dull and even their tapeworms were hollering for food. It wasn't that No. 34 was not willing to share her milk, it's just that she had so little to give.
So it was with great relief for all of us that Independence Day came, the day we would wean our calves and No. 34 could have a few months of peace and quiet before the arrival of her next litter. A rich cattleman friend of ours from Australia was staying with us at the time and he volunteered to help gather the herd.
As we were riding out to the cattle he spotted one of No. 34's calves draining her crankcase. "Holy dooley! I do believe that's about the ugliest calf I've ever seen," he said in his Aussie accent. "But then the sheila it's suckin' is nothing to look at either is she mate?"
A little farther down the trail we came across another midnight black, malnourished runt. "Bloody oath, those have to be the ugliest twins I've ever seen," said my Aussie friend. "Take off your glasses and they'll look a lot better to you. Besides, I don't think they are twins," I said. "They have to be. They look exactly alike and there simply can't be two cows with stunted calves that ugly."
I had a hunch that my Aussie friend thought I didn't know my own cattle. Admittedly, I was beginning to wonder myself.
"I'd be willing to bet you 20 American dollars they aren't twins," I wagered, still not believing that two randomly sired calves could be that grotesque my rich Australian friend took me up on the bet.
Just about the time we consummated the deal the biological dinner bell rang and the black runt we had just seen streaked across the field and, like a jet landing on an aircraft carrier, landed with his nose stuck in No. 34's vacant flank.
"By crikey! I told you they were twins, said my friend. "Cross my palm with silver, mate."
"Not so fast," I said as I turned in my saddle and scanned the horizon. And sure enough not 20 seconds later another black rocket upon hearing it was dinner time exploded over the hill.
Not wanting to be the odd man out he landed in the milk bar using the rear entrance.
"They aren't twins," I said smugly, "they are triplets!" As my formerly rich Aussie friend forked over his money he was heard to mutter, "Bloody hell, it's an epidemic."❖