Thursday, March 12, 2015

Twin Work

We had three sets of twins enrolled in the ranch's risk management program. Today we collected on one set.

Mark found a dead calf this morning that he thinks had both front legs back. Luckily the cow was okay. Mark loaded the dead calf and fetched the cow to the barn with his favorite mount, Jane. He then skinned the calf while I milked out the cow and tried to suckle one of the twins on her.

To “suckle” means just as you’d expect, put the cow in a head-catch and put the calf to her udder. The baby was having none of it though. He probably wasn't hungry enough and when they’re a few days old they don’t like being handled and can refuse to nurse. I tied the cow’s leg back but she was still trying to kick and scared him even more.  

I got a good pitcher of the cow’s colostrum, her first milk. Just like humans, the mother’s first milk is loaded with antibodies and critical for the calf’s future immune system. And in fact, things need to go pretty right because the calf’s stomach can only absorb these antibodies in the first 12 hours or so of life, so getting up and sucking right away is crucial.We like to have extra colostrum on hand for this very reason as once in awhile we might need to step in and help. We have an old relic of a refrigerator, the kind with a lever handle, in the barn to store the milk.

Even though the grafted calf didn’t want to suck just yet, Mark put the skin on it and poured a little O-NO-MO on his head. It’s a product that claims “orphan no more,” and is made from granular dried placenta. It must taste salty as the cows lick it and start to bond with the calf. This cow licked as intended and then hummed to her now reincarnated calf - that motherly, soft coaxing murmur we hear only when a mother addresses her baby. Cows don’t say much, but this vocalization is unmistakable. 

Speaking of twins, we celebrated Jesse’s kids’ third birthday today. It was a nice gathering of family and friends with pizza, ice cream and cake, and lots of March sunshine coming through their south facing windows. It’s fun to watch Jesse with his kids. I even think - yes I’m sure of it - I heard him humming to them once or twice today.   

beautiful and thick

she thinks she thought of him

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