Our cows and calves go south for the winter. No, not to Arizona, Florida or Texas. Bill hauls them to Winter Resort Ranch, about 45 minutes away, where they will receive sumptuous catered meals of silage and hay. Our farm is not set up to provide such lavish accommodations through the winter.
Departure From Hilbert Hauling Terminal
Boarding area play pen for the children.
Ear tags and inoculations are required prior to traveling south for the winter. If you haven’t already received those, we’ll provide them prior to boarding.
Pre-boarding is now open for children under one year old.
We have a full load today. Carry-on luggage is limited to one bag per cow.
General bovine boarding at Gate H is now open. Please have your boarding passes ready and proceed in an orderly fashion along the chute-way.
Taxiing up the driveway. Cricket sees them off.
Leaving behind a cloud of dust, not a contrail, the cattle are on their way.
Neighbor's cattle watch enviously as ours leave. "Gee, sure wish we could go south for the winter!"
De-Trailering at Winter Resort Ranch
"Here we are!"
"Which way to the beach? Cow-abunga!"
"I'm hungry. How soon do we get silage?"
"What do you mean there's no beach? Did I board the wrong trailer?"
Back at Hilbert Hauling Terminal service area: There are no lavatories in trailer-class.
Thanks for traveling with Hilbert Hauling! We’ll be happy to provide return transport next spring. Until then…
Bon Voyage! We'll come visit!
While we were dealing with the Trooper tragedy, another adventure was unfolding at one of the other rented pastures.
When Bill made his daily round of the pastures, he found one of the cows with a new calf. When he checked again the next day, all was well. By his calculation, no other cows were due to calf for a few days, so he didn’t check again until a couple of days later. On this tour of the pasture, he found a small calf, thin, weak and apparently abandoned. He loaded it into the back of the mini-truck and drove around the pasture to the cows that hadn’t yet calved to see if any would claim it. None did.
Bill theorized the abandoned calf was the one born a couple of days earlier. The cow may have delivered this one first, cleaned it and let it nurse. Then when nature told her, “Hold on. You’re not finished yet!” she birthed the second calf, claiming it and eventually abandoning this one.
Now we had an unclaimed calf needing a mother. But wait! We also had a cow suffering the loss of not only her own calf, but an adoptee. Sweet Pea was historically a good mother and we were distraught at the prospect of selling one of our favorite cows. Could we pull off another adoption?
Bill brought the calf home and put it in the barn. Not knowing if it received much colostrum from its mother, he gave it some just-add-water substitute. After Trooper died, he’d relocated Sweet Pea to our timber pasture, a quarter of a mile from the barn, so she wouldn’t stand at the corral pen and bawl for her dead calf. He found her and coaxed her to the barn, using his best imitation calf bawl.
The introduction did not go well. Sweet Pea butted and kicked at the calf when it tried to nurse. But the calf needed milk and the cow needed milking. Bill herded her toward the squeeze chute. Sweet Pea’s sweet disposition hadn't yet returned and we suspected she may have permanently sworn off humans. Getting her into the chute required much tactical herding, prodding and muttering. Placing a tub of grain outside the head gate finally lured her into the chute and kept her distracted while Bill milked her. He netted about two quarts and bottle-fed it to the calf.
The next morning, Bill repeated the milking and feeding procedure. He went out to repeat the process in the evening, but this time he lowered a side panel of the squeeze chute and let the calf nurse from the cow. By now, herding Sweet Pea into the chute was a routine she accepted and probably even anticipated, because she knew there was grain to munch on.
An essential element of this calf adoption was missing: the hide from the previous calf. As a substitute to encourage Sweet Pea to lick the calf, Bill used a product formulated specifically for first-calf heifers and their calves to promote the bonding experience. The product is a granular concoction described as a flavored lick for cattle. The key ingredient is molasses, which is candy to cows and they love it! Bill used this product previously to encourage a first-calf heifer to accept her calf. I wrote about it in my book in the chapter “Marginally Unfit Mothers,” sub-chapter “Candy Calf.”
Bill dampened the calf’s back, sprinkled on the granules and left the pair together in the pen. His comment was “Maybe this will take, and maybe it won’t.”
The next morning, Bill went to the barn, walked Sweet Pea into the chute, lowered the panel and let the calf nurse. He could see she had licked the calf, because the hair on its back was a sticky mess! He reapplied the molasses product and put the pair back in the pen. This was on a Friday and Bill was officiating at a high school football game in the evening. Before he left, he returned to the barn for the evening feeding. He found the calf nursing on its own and Sweet Pea was licking its back. His diligence was rewarded with success! Hot dang and hallelujah!
To be sure this new bond held, Sweet Pea and her new adoptee stayed in the pen for another day, then were turned out into our pasture. Sweet Pea has forgiven us for the horrible, but necessary, experience the day her first calf was stillborn. She eats range cubes out of our hands again.
Bill named the abandoned-turned-adoptee calf “Maybe.” But, there’s no “maybe” about it—Sweet Pea loves this calf! Life is good!
The trees get naked!
So glad those are leaves covering the ground and driveway, and not snow!
Bill brings in trees he cut down in the timber.
Chain Saw Man cuts these trees into much smaller pieces then runs those through the log splitter so they will fit in the wood furnace. Cricket does her part to help haul the split wood to the house.
Here's June's Junque last spring...
...and here's June's Junque now.
Without pretty flowers, June's Junque looks, well, junky! We'll empty the containers and store those and the yard art until next spring. Then the junk will once again become junque!
No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. The hedge apples are dropping.
Hedge apples, also known as hedge balls, litter the ground in the yard and timber. These greenish-yellow bumpy balls are the fruit of the Osage orange tree, and plummet to the ground in the fall. On a recent walk through the timber, I was startled by a loud PLOP on the ground beside me. I had narrowly missed being concussed by a large hedge apple! Does anyone know why hedge apples come from Osage orange trees? Seems like "apples to oranges" to me! OK, I couldn't resist!
Hedge apples are potentially hazardous for cattle. If a cow swallows one without chewing it, the apple can become lodged in the throat, suffocating her; or lodged in the esophagus so she can't swallow or burp, causing her to bloat and die. The latter happened on our farm last year.
Some people believe scattering hedge apples around the house foundation repels spiders. When I was a kid, my parents put hedge apples in the basement to repel crickets. Though some people swear this works, most sources I checked consider there is insufficient scientific evidence to support it. But, hey, if you think it works, by all means do it. It's harmless and doesn't expose you and your family to pesticides.
Hedge apples also provide a pop of bright green to arrangements containing gourds, pumpkins and fall foliage. I've created displays in an antique wooden dough bowl. Very autumn-ish!
And the final rite of fall on our farm...
The cattle go south for the winter.
Next up..."Bon Voyage Until Next Spring!"
By the next day, the bond between Sweet Pea and Trooper was as solid as if she birthed the calf herself. Bill loaded the new family and hauled them back to the rented pasture. We were relieved the adoption was successful, not just from the financial aspect, but because Sweet Pea was one of our favorites and we had grown fond of Trooper.
On Saturday afternoon, we were literally walking out the door to attend a wedding in Lawrence when the phone rang. It was the neighbor who owned the pasture. Trooper appeared to be sick. He was lying flat on the ground and hadn't moved from that spot for several hours. Sweet Pea would nudge him, but he wouldn't get up.
Bill grabbed farm clothes and drove his pickup to the pasture. I followed in the car. If Trooper wasn't sick, we would leave the pickup and go on to the wedding. But he was sick with scours, a severe form of diarrhea, and too weak to get up. We returned home, Bill changed his clothes and, grabbing his hypodermic syringe and medicine, returned to the pasture. This emergency caught him without any electrolyte supplement so we would stop at a farm store in Lawrence to resupply.
We missed the wedding but arrived in time for the reception. The groom worked for a large cattle operation and also owned his own small herd, so he understood and sympathized with the reason for our tardiness.
The next morning, Bill mixed up the electrolyte mixture in the calf bottle and took it to the pasture. Trooper was too weak to suck, so Bill used the feeding tube he'd thought to take with him. He returned later and tube fed more electrolyte mixture.
On Monday, Trooper showed no sign of improvement so Bill hauled both him and Sweet Pea home. He thought the scours might be caused by the richness of the cow’s milk upsetting the calf’s digestive system. Prior to the adoption, we fed him the less rich milk replacer for several days. Bill separated the pair, penning Trooper in the barn and putting Sweet Pea just outside in a corral pen so they could at least see each other. This arrangement was not acceptable to her and she displayed her annoyance by bawling and pawing up the ground.
On the advice of a veterinarian, Bill tried a different medicine on Trooper, continued the electrolyte solution and resumed feeding him a little milk replacer. He began to show improvement and, by the next day, was up skipping around the pen and bawling for his new mother. Bill removed the barrier panel between the two pens and reunited the pair. We were relieved we’d apparently survived another crisis and happy for our pet, Sweet Pea—she would have a calf to mother.
Late the next afternoon, Trooper relapsed. Medicine, electrolytes and milk replacer couldn’t bring him out of it this time. He died a couple of days later. We were crushed. Bill had never lost a battle with calf scours. I felt sad for Sweet Pea, losing two calves in the span of a week. Maybe their brains don’t process the information in just that way. I hope not, for her sake, but my brain does and I grieved for both of us.
June's Note: Regrettably, we have no pictures of Trooper.
Next up: Another Adoption—"Maybe this will take, and maybe it won't."
Bill arrived home from the livestock sale. The same thought had occurred to both of us—attempt the adoption process with Sweet Pea and Trooper.
We caravan-ed out the driveway in what I was beginning to think of as the Hilbert Cattle Emergency First Responders: Bill driving his farm truck pulling the stock trailer and me driving the mini-truck. The image would have been complete if we'd stuck our arms out the windows and slapped those flashing red Kojak lights on top of the vehicles!
Bill was concerned Sweet Pea would become even more upset if she saw the truck and trailer, so we left them parked on the side of the road and took the mini-truck to the pasture. Sweet Pea was lying down next to her dead calf, but with her head up. When she saw us approach, she bawled a warning, hauled herself up and stood in front of her calf, as if to protect it. I sadly wondered if she would ever again trust humans.
I parked the truck near Sweet Pea. Bill loaded the dead calf into the back, then directed me to drive to the catch pen. Sweet Pea followed, bellowing and tossing her head. When we arrived at the pen, Bill dragged the calf through the gate. Of course, Sweet Pea followed. We shut the pen gate.
We drove out of the pasture, closed the gate behind us and went back down the driveway to get the truck and trailer. I led the way back to the pasture, opened the gate for Bill, followed him through with the mini-truck, then closed the gate. Bill backed the trailer to the catch pen, opened the trailer gate, then the pen gate. He dragged the calf into the trailer and bolted out before Sweet Pea trampled him in her haste to get to her calf. We closed the trailer gate and headed home.
Once home, Bill unloaded Sweet Pea into the alleyway leading to the corral, then herded her into a pen in the barn. He drove around to the double doors, then dragged the dead calf into the barn near the pen where a furious Sweet Pea was bawling and kicking up dirt. Once again, he used his deer skinning knife to cut the hide off the calf, then cut holes for twine. He sent me to the house to mix up a little milk replacer appetizer for Trooper.
Bill grabbed a rope from his shop and we went to the other barn to get Trooper. We gave him a swig of milk replacer, Bill tied the rope loosely around his neck and we walked him into the barn. I straddled him, firmly grasped the rope in one hand and held the bottle with the other, while Bill draped the hide over his back and started tying it on with nylon twine. Sweet Pea closely observed this process through the pen gate and fussed her disapproval at us. She knew we were doing something with her calf and whatever it was, she didn't like it! Oh, if only she could comprehend what was happening.
Trooper drained the bottle and looked around impatiently for more food. Then he butted me in the crotch, not hard, but with just enough pressure that I suggested to Bill to please hurry the heck up! To keep the fidgety calf still, I bent over and put my arms around him while his new coat was fastened. In the absence of afterbirth to smear on the hide, Bill rubbed his hands over the skinned carcass, then quickly smeared the slime on the hide and over my bare arms. Hey, I’m not the adoptee here!
When Trooper was dressed in his slimy adoption coat, I opened the pen gate and Bill pushed him through. Sweet Pea sniffed him, looked him over and sniffed again. She took a test lick. At that point, we left to give them some quality bonding time. I fervently hoped Trooper would prefer his new mom over me and the bottle of milk replacer!
Bill went out half an hour later and Trooper was having supper while Sweet Pea licked his back. When Bill came in and told me about the successful adoption, I nearly cried again. Another hallelujah moment on the Hilbert farm!
Next Up: Trooper, The Holstein Adoptee—Part 3
Bill had a high school district playoff game last night, so it was just us girls—Cricket and I. And, of course, the herd. Since we've had almost three and a half inches of rain in the past couple of days, making our walking route very muddy in places, I decided to take a more leisurely walk. I strapped on my camera, stepped into my gumboots and we set off to do a photo shoot update on our calves.
Remember our first calf of the fall calving season, Gussie? Here she is. I couldn't get a current picture of #20 and Gussie together. The calves are at that stage where they don't want to hang around Mom except for meals!
Initially, one of our first-calf heifers, Ginger, needed a quick Mothering 101 course. Fortunately, she caught on quickly. Her calf is thriving!
Fogerty, son of Creedence and grandson of Proud Mary, is still quite the little rascal and ringleader of the calf herd.
Fogerty is on the right, blowing raspberries at Calf #62. That was then...
This is Fogerty now, showing us his innocent "Rascal? Who me?" side.
Remember when I said Calf #501 had her mother's eyes? Well, I was wrong. She actually has two black eyes, not one. You can barely see the black ring around her left eye in the "Now" picture.
Remember how skinny Proud Mary was after Tina was born? She is filling out nicely.
Here's Tina, on the left, and one of her friends.
The calves are at the age when they would rather hang with their friends than with their moms.
"Aw, c'mon! How 'bout a little kiss!"
Cricket is not impressed!
Trooper settled into his new home in the barn, quarters he shared with our cat, Molybolt. Someone showing up with a bottle of milk replacer was the highlight of his day!
A couple of days later, our yearling steers and heifers, except for those we kept as replacement heifers, were hauled to a livestock sale in St. Joseph, MO. Bill drove up to watch the sale. Mid-morning, our landlord at one of the rented pastures called and reported one of our cows appeared to be struggling to deliver her calf. The landlord reported the cow would lie down for a while, then get up and move around. This restlessness is normal labor activity as long as it doesn’t extend beyond a couple of hours. When the landlord, a seasoned veteran of a cow/calf operation—she once pulled a calf by herself!—viewed the cow through binoculars, she saw two hooves sticking out of the vaginal opening.
I grabbed my binoculars, jumped in the mini-truck and headed over to check out the cow. She had not gone off by herself to birth the calf, apparently preferring the company of a support group. I drove within about 25 yards, got out and walked a little closer, then focused the binoculars. I saw the hooves sticking out but something didn’t look right. Then I realized the hooves were upside down, meaning the unborn calf was backward.
I raced home and called the vet. The receptionist said he was not in the office. I explained my situation and she said she would call him. She called back in a few minutes and advised he would stop by the office to pick up his calf-pulling gear and meet me at the pasture.
When he arrived, I opened the gate, pointed to where the cow was, closed the gate and followed in the mini-truck. We parked a few yards away, he grabbed his lariat and I grabbed a small bucket of range cubes. This cow, named Sweet Pea for her gentle nature, will usually follow us anywhere for range cubes. We approached her and I rattled the bucket. Sweet Pea let out a distressed bellow and started to walk away. The vet threw the lariat loop toward her. She saw it coming and ducked her head. I cautiously approached and gently rattled the bucket again. She tossed her head and pawed the ground.
The vet tried again to rope her and, once again, she evaded the loop. Then, her friends decided they’d had enough and headed off toward a pond. She followed at a trot, bawling out her pain and anger. We followed and the vet relooped his rope. We caught up with her at the pond and the vet tossed the loop at her. Another miss. The vet is a roper so he knows what he’s doing and is good at it. But he was no match for this confused and distressed mother-to-be.
The support group headed north of the pond and Sweet Pea followed. There was a fence ahead. If we could keep them contained and moving along the fence, turn them at the corner and continue herding along the east fence, they would eventually arrive at the catch pen where Bill loads out cattle when he moves them. The pen was the best place to secure Sweet Pea and attempt to pull her calf.
It was now mid-day and the temperature was about 95 degrees. I’m not particularly heat tolerant, but despite being drenched with sweat, I was more concerned about Sweet Pea’s welfare and how the excessive heat and activity would affect her. We assumed by now the calf was dead but we didn't want to lose the cow which would likely happen if we just left her alone. So far, she didn't appear to be suffering from the heat. We hoped to get her to the catch pen before that became an issue.
The vet sent me to the pen to make sure the gate was open while he continued to herd the cows along the fence. They all turned the corner and headed toward me. Then, the other cows veered off and started back across the pasture. The vet blocked Sweet Pea from following and herded her close to the fence. He tossed the lariat again and, finally, it looped around her head and slid to her neck.
Then, she went ballistic, bucking like a bull trying to throw off a rider! The vet dug in his heels but was no match for her 1,400 pound rage. He struggled frantically to wind his end of the rope around a tree before she could jerk it away from him. Just when I thought Sweet Pea and his rope were gone, he made one circle around the tree, then another. He worked with her bucking and tugging motion to cinch up the slack in the rope so she was immobilized against the tree.
I jogged back across the pasture to get his pickup truck, a big diesel with a standard shift. I drove standard shift cars for many years, but I killed the sucker three times before figuring out this behemoth needed a much larger drink of diesel to move than I was giving it. To further complicate the situation, I was perched precariously on the edge of the seat because I didn't want to mess up his seat position. There was nothing to brace my back against to maintain balance while one foot was releasing the clutch and the other was pressing on the accelerator.
I horsed the truck to the east fence, the vet unloaded his calf pulling equipment and had the calf on the ground in less than 10 minutes. Sweet Pea bellowed through most of the process, a mixture of rage and pain. As we expected, the calf was dead.
The vet tossed his equipment aside and started the process of releasing Sweet Pea. He loosened the rope wound around the tree to give her enough slack to loosen the loop around her neck. She bucked and lurched, pulling the loop even tighter. The vet finally took out his knife and cut his rope close to her neck. She bolted away from the tree and the loop fell off. She trotted to her dead calf and started licking it, not understanding it was dead.
The vet gathered up his equipment and took me back across the pasture to the mini-truck. I thanked him profusely and, when we arrived at my truck, gave him a bottle of water out of a cooler I had earlier thought to grab as I left the house. He seemed unflustered by the whole ordeal. Of course, it’s part of his job. I, on the other hand, was barely able to contain my post traumatic trembling.
We drove our separate vehicles to the gate and I opened it for him to drive through. As I was getting into my truck, my cell phone rang. I assumed it was Bill as I had called his cell three times and left update messages. I gave him the sad news. I must have sounded as distraught as I felt, because he assured me there was no choice but to call the vet. These things just happen. We were lucky to have a conscientious landlord and neighbor who recognized the problem and called us. Otherwise, we might have lost Sweet Pea also. Bill was leaving the sale barn and would be home in about an hour and a half.
I was hot, sweaty and heart-sick. I felt like a hideous monster for putting our gentle Sweet Pea through the horrific ordeal, particularly on such a miserably hot day. I replayed what Bill said: If I had done nothing, she wouldn’t have been able to deliver the calf and likely would have suffered a painful, slow death. Before I drove through the gate I looked back at Sweet Pea, still mothering her dead calf. The emotions of the past couple of hours—helplessness, loss, guilt—smothered me. I cried.
To be continued...
Were we filming a documentary about cow poop for the RFD Channel? Nope, just setting the scene for a picture to use on my book’s author bio page and for our 2012 Christmas card. My vision was for Bill, our golden retriever, Cricket, and I to stand in front of a barbed wire fence with our cattle grouped behind the fence. That vision also included props—cow pies on the ground around us. We selected the spot we wanted to use for the picture, then set off in the mini-truck in search of photogenic mounds of manure.
We had already identified some good prospects on our walk the previous evening. The tricky part would be to move the cow pies to our photo shoot area. For that chore, we brought along a shovel and sheets of tin for transport of the pies.
We found our first prospective pie and unloaded the tools. Bill carefully worked the shovel under the cow pie, gently lifted it onto the piece of tin and slowly pulled out the shovel blade. The pie slid smoothly, but not too cleanly, off the blade. We carried the tin with the pie back to the truck, loaded it in the bed and went in search of the next cow pie.
Oooh! This one was huge and perfectly shaped—symmetrical and nicely domed. Well done, whoever laid this one down! I just hoped it would stay together during transport. As the cow pie slid off the shovel blade onto the tin, it started to crack. Bill slowly finessed the blade out and the pie remained intact.
The next cow pie was not as sturdy as it appeared. As Bill pushed the shovel underneath it, the structure collapsed. He turned the shovel over, dumped out the inferior pie, wiped the mess off the blade with grass and we drove on to the next one.
Once we had six cow pie props, we headed back to our photo site. We carefully unloaded the sheets of tin, set them on the ground and Bill used the shovel to lift the pies and put them in position. The scene was set!
For the picture, I wore blue jeans, blue chambray shirt, gumboots and held a red hay hook. Bill was dressed similarly, but without the gumboots and hay hook. Cricket wore her usual big smile. The cows and calves stood quietly behind us, munching on the pile of range cubes Bill dumped on the ground. Our photographer, thoroughly amused by the whole scene, focused and clicked a dozen times. The Hilbert’s, Cricket, the cows and their calves, and the photogenic cow pies were preserved for all time!
In my Calving Update post on Sept. 15th, I mentioned a calving saga possibly worthy of mini-series production on the RFD channel. This is the story of Trooper, our Holstein adoptee.
The chaotic week kicked off on a Sunday in September with a cow in one of the rented pastures birthing a stillborn calf. Bill checked #20 (grandmother to Gussie from my post of our first blessed event of the season) about mid-day and found her alone in a far corner of the pasture—her chosen labor and delivery site. Her previous calving experiences were normal so he wasn't concerned. We checked again in the evening. She’d delivered her calf, but it was dead, the apparent result of some complication causing an extended delivery time, stressing the calf. The poor cow didn't realize he baby was dead and was licking and trying to nudge it to its feet. Watching a cow "mother" a dead calf always rips my heart out!
On the way home, I asked Bill if he would try to find a newborn Holstein bull calf at a dairy to attempt an adoption. The closest dairies he knew of in our area were no longer operational but he had heard about one near Ottawa, about an hour away. He called the dairyman and, yes, he could sell Bill a two-day old bull. The next morning, Bill headed to Ottawa and brought home the prospective adoptee.
If you haven’t read my book and don’t have any cow/calf operation experience, this may get a little gross for you.
Bill stopped briefly at home on his way to the pasture to get his deer skinning knife and some nylon baling twine. At the pasture, he skinned the hide off the dead calf, poked two holes at each end of the hide, draped the hide over the Holstein’s back, tied it on with the nylon twine, then wiped afterbirth on the hide. The mostly white-with-a-few-black-spots Holstein calf now sported a slimy black overcoat.
The theory behind this process is the cow will smell the scent of her dead calf on the adoptee and accept it as hers. Bill pushed the calf over to #20. She sniffed it and walked away. He pushed it toward her again and she repeated the rejection. But the calf trotted after her, so Bill left them together to have some quiet time to bond.
He went back to the pasture a couple of hours later to see how the adoption was progressing. It wasn't. Another cow, #21, and her calf wandered to the back to check on the situation and the adoptee was hanging out with them.
In the evening, we both went back to the pasture to look for the adoptee. If #20 wouldn't take it, we needed to get it home and give it milk replacer or it would dehydrate and become weak. The calf had returned to the area but the cow was still rejecting it. While Bill was cutting the hide off and loading the calf, I observed #20 walk away from us. What appeared to be afterbirth still hung from her vaginal opening. Earlier, Bill had attempted to grab and pull it out, but it broke off. I thought it odd she hadn't expelled yet. Then I noticed her girth and the way she walked. She was still almost as large as before she birthed the stillborn calf, and her walk was more of a waddle. I brought all this to Bill’s attention and he peered closely at her. I speculated, “Do you suppose she was carrying twins and one of them is still in there?”
“That explains why she hasn't cleaned yet. What’s hanging out isn't afterbirth, it’s pre-birth and she’s trying to have another calf,” was Bill’s analysis. “No wonder she wouldn't take the Holstein! Mother Nature told her she still had another calf to deliver.”
By then, it was almost dark, meaning by the time we went home and Bill hooked up the stock trailer to the truck and returned to get the cow, it would be really dark. Anyway, Bill would have to herd the cow across the pasture to a catch pen to load her into the trailer. After all she’d been through in the last 24 hours, chances of this all happening were slimmer than none. Bill said there was nothing we could do; he would come back the next morning to see whether just the calf was dead or if we had also lost the cow. So we took our little rejected adoptee and went home to put groceries in his rumen.
Side note: Bill promoted me to Certified Bovine Midwife Assistant II for my observation about #20 actually carrying twins.
Bill’s first thought was to take the Holstein to a livestock sale and attempt to recoup his investment. Then he decided to keep it for about a week, just in case another unfortunate situation occurred and we needed an adoptee. We put the calf in the barn and wearily dragged ourselves to the house. I commented that with all the Holstein had been through since morning, he sure was a trooper. Bill agreed and we named him “Trooper.”
The next morning, Bill went back to the pasture to check on the birth of the second twin, hoping he wouldn't have to load #20 and bring her home to pull a presumably dead calf. #20 delivered the second twin and it was dead, kind of a mixed relief. Since we now have no income-producing product from this cow, she will be sold later this fall.
Next up: Trooper, The Holstein Adoptee—Part 2
"Under the Cow Pie" is a collection of the back stories of my book—little-known entertaining tidbits that became adventures or funny experiences during the writing and publishing process. But first, let's explore what is really under a cow pie.
One evening on our walk, I noticed dried up cow pies that were flipped over. I asked Bill who or what was responsible for exposing the underbelly of a cow pie. He responded that wild turkeys flipped them over to hunt grubs and other forms of mini wildlife found underneath. Grubs are the larva, or infant, stage of the Green June Beetle ("June Bugs").
So, my namesake insects grub around in cow pies in their infancy. Hnh!
By the time we see flipped cow pies on our walks, the grubs are long gone. They've either provided a delightful meal for the turkeys or burrowed into the cow pie or the ground. They can move about as fast as a naughty human two-year-old when it doesn't want to be disciplined by a pursuing parent!
So I strapped on my camera and went on a little cow pie flipping excursion as part of my evening walk. These pictures aren't as gross as you might imagine because the underbelly of a dried up cow pie looks like dirt.
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A dried up cow pie has a grayish-white color versus the dark green or brown of a fresh pie or one that is a few days old. Trying to flip a pie that isn't dry is messy business! I know this and the turkeys know this.
The picture below shows two grubs on the underside of a dried cow pie. See? Not so gross. Well, at least the flip side of the cow pie isn't gross!
Roly-polies sometimes live in and under cow pies. Smaller than grubs, these little tidbits are probably snacks or appetizers.
Earthworms are also found under cow pies. Happy is the wild turkey that can score one of these full meal deals!
Finally, what turkey can resist a delectable centipede for dessert!
Now you know about life under a dried cow pie and how fleeting it can be once a hungry wild turkey flips it over!
Next up...In search of photogenic cow pies!