Baby Calves and Severe Weather Warnings

Last night while I was making lip balm, my friend called my phone.  We chatted a bit and then she says, “Hey, I have a new calf on the ground!”

The downside of this comment was, the mom was a first time freshener and she wasn’t sure what to do with this wet little black thing that kept trying to get up under her backend.

“Butter” was out in the field with the rest of the herd.  Severe weather was on the way and this baby wasn’t even dried off.

L and I talked through what to do – I’m finding that cows and babies are a lot like goats and babies.  I’ve had lots of experience with goats so I was drawing off the knowledge from that part of the brain.

“Let’s dry him off and see if the mom will take to him again and let him nurse.  Call me back.”

I continued with the lip balm and after a bit she called.

“Mom keeps butting him away and looks at him like he’s a monster.  Got most of him dried off but he’s pretty wet still.”

We talked some more and decided mom and baby needed to be in a smaller space away from the rest of the herd.  That way, the mom could be fed grain and while she was distracted, push the baby up underneath and hopefully mom would let him latch on.  The colostrum, the first milk, is essential to any baby’s health and good start to life.

Sounded like a good plan, only problem – one person couldn’t accomplish this task alone.  I quickly went to my computer to check the weather.  It was 7:30p and the snow was to begin in Statham around 10pm.  With clear roads, it’s a 45 minute drive to my friend’s farm.  I quickly calculated and figured if we left right away, I could make it back home shortly after the snow started.  Being from New England, I wasn’t worried at all about driving in the snow.  AND, we have our truck, a Ford F 350 King Ranch with 4-wheel drive.

I went to Dave and explained the situation and he said – go.  I’m telling you, that man is wonderful.  He’s come to realize how important any new life is to me, he may not always understand why, but he respects that part of me;  he understands how difficult farming can be for a woman, especially a single woman; he also knows and respects my abilities.  His one request – stay in constant phone contact.  I put Megan in charge of the phone.

Megan and I gathered all the stuff we’d need, including my headlamp  – the temps were dropping quickly – and we got in the truck, stopped for fuel, and headed out to the farm.

Dry the entire way – no precipitation.

When we arrived, L had moved the panels around to make a small corral for the mom and baby.  Megan and I put on layers of clothes, L and I donned our headlamps, and all 3 of us climbed over the fence and started our trek into the field.

On the other side of the berm, we found the new mom and baby calf.  He was up and trying to grab that teat but she kept butting him away.  We waited a bit to see what would happen and when the baby was pushed to the ground, we knew we needed to implement the plan.

L went over and scooped up the calf and Megan and I had the dubious task of moving the mom up the hill to the new corral.

Some side notes:  when I say she “scooped up the calf”, it’s not as if this is a puppy or human baby – this calf weighs about 60# and squirms, and he’s wet, and we had a ways to go.  It was quite the workout carrying him up the hill.  Close to the corral, L handed off the calf to Megan so she could carry him the rest of the way – L wanted  her to have the “full experience.”

Cows run in herds and where one goes, so go the rest.  Moving “Butter” to the new corral meant moving the rest of the herd – moms and babies.  It was dark and I had this funky light on my head trying to keep my eye on the right mom.

We all made it to the corral about the same time.  Of course, it would have been wonderful if I told you just “Butter” walked through that gate into the corral, but no.  Many went through because there was food in the trough.  Megan stayed with the calf, L culled the rest of the cows and I worked the gate.  And what an efficient team we were!  Within no time, we had all the extras out of the corral and “Butter” was looking at us with the look of, “I don’t think so” in her eyes!

L and I toweled off the baby and I kissed him on the nose.  I do love baby animals!  Next, L put sweet feed in the trough and while Butter was gobbling that up, L put the calf under her.  Mom gave a half-hearted kick and then gave into that little guy.  He sucked and sucked for all he was worth!  The three of us stood by and cheered him on!!

Reality was, if we had not gotten him out of the pasture, more than likely he would have frozen to death during the night.

Still working against the clock, we quickly made a lean-to with a cattle panel over the corner of the corral, tarps on the top and sides, and lots of hay for bedding.

While Megan and L were finishing, I went down to feed Lily.  (I wrote a blog about her a few months back when she had a hurt hoof and we were having to medicate.)  L had Lily penned separately because she’s still limping a bit and L wanted to keep her close by so she could keep an eye on her.

When Lily stood up to eat her hay, I looked at her backend.  This time of year when animals are getting ready to have babies, you’re always lookin’ at backends!  Sure enough, she had a line of mucus about 18” long hanging down.  I checked her udder and it was filling up – two sure signs that she would be calving soon.

We finished up about 10pm and still there was no precipitation.  Lauren called to tell me that UGA and Piedmont had cancelled school for the next day and oh, it had started to snow in Statham.  I got in the truck to drive up to the house and the radio was on the news station.  In a matter of minutes, they listed all the roads in the Atlanta area that were closed and treacherous and please don’t be out driving.  I told Megan we needed to clean up and get going.  We were heading back into the storm.

We drove out the farm gate at 10:19p.  I called Dave to tell him we were on our way.  Our back deck was already covered in snow.  I pushed it, and yes, may have been speeding a bit…..but not for long.  Soon there were a couple of flakes – I really wasn’t worried because all the snow we’ve had since we moved here has come in gently and it took a while for accumulation.

I continued to drive these country roads and within minutes, there was snow everywhere!  At one point, I slowed to a crawl because I couldn’t see the road and I was most worried about the edges – I certainly didn’t want to end up in a ditch!

I really debated about turning around, knowing I could get back to L’s before it was bad.  But that Yankee spirit within pressed forward, relying on all those years of driving in far worse weather than this.

By now there were a couple of inches on the road and I had made it to the 10, a major 4 lane highway.  There were more people on the road than I had imagined but of course, they were probably thinking like I was – how bad could it get in an hour??

The cars on my side began to slow and there were blinking lights up ahead.  A snowplow.  I must admit I chuckled to myself.  What luck!  Of the handful of snowplows in Georgia, I was behind one of them!  I followed that snowplow at 10mph to my exit.  And that was the exit the snowplow turned down – yes!

At the end of the exit, he turned one way, and I, the other.  By now there was about 3” on the road and I was headed for less traveled roads.  It was 11:30p.  We crawled along, my eyes strained to see the road and keep far enough behind the car in front of me.  Not bad driving and I smiled as Megan kept exclaiming, “Mom, it’s so beautiful!”

We were almost to our hometown when I heard the familiar sound of a train whistle.  You’ve got to be kidding.  In my mind, I’d figured out the flattest road surface to get us home.  The worst incline was driving up and over the railroad tracks into Statham.  The next RR crossing down the road was worse and the best one already had the crossing guards closing as we came upon it.  Bummer.

I drove to the crossing and waited back a bit until the train passed by.  Took a wide swing and only fishtailed a little going over the hill.  Phew – that was the worst and I was headed to home.

We drove onto Parker Drive and Megan and I both sighed a sigh of relief.  She kept saying to me along the trip, “Mom, I feel completely safe with you cuz you grew up in this weather.”  Ahh, the faith of a young child to keep me buoyed when my own faith was faltering a bit.

That night as I fell into a nice warm bed, I thanked the Lord over and over for keeping us safe and for allowing us the privilege to help one of His  new born creatures.

I’d like you to meet Curry…..

After we left the farm, the snow came.  And as Murphy’s Law would have it, the lean-to was in  the wrong corner and pretty soon Curry was under snow….

L was out in the snowstorm moving panels and checking on cows and babies.  She finally made it to bed by 2 am.

Curry eventually realized where his bed was and stayed toasty warm all night.

The End

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3 Responses to “Baby Calves and Severe Weather Warnings”

  1. Lydia Rose Says:

    Curry is so cute.
    So glad you made it home safe, too.

  2. Lisa Milton Says:

    Great story Cyndi. Miss you. 🙂
    Hi Lydia!

  3. Cecile Long Says:

    Quite a story! Hooray for Butter, Curry, and three brave women!!

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