Luckily, as with the first adoption, Bill found #608 and her dead calf in one of our own pastures when he was making early morning rounds. Loading and hauling in a stock trailer would not be necessary. He loaded the calf onto the tailgate of his pickup where mama could see and smell it. Then he gathered up the afterbirth in a bucket and headed for the barn. #608 didn’t just follow the truck, she raced it to the barn, even clipping the driver’s side mirror! At the barn, he herded the cow into a pen, unloaded the dead calf and afterbirth, called the dairyman to check availability for another Holstein adoptee and left to pick one up.
When Bill returned with the Holstein, we went to work. Fortunately, for this adoption—the cattleman term for the procedure is “grafting” but I like to humanize these processes—we had two helpful aids missing from the first one: the pelt from the dead calf and the afterbirth. These items could be critical because this Holstein bull was mostly white, whereas the first one was mostly black.
Using his deer skinning knife, Bill skinned the pelt from the dead calf and poked holes in each of the four corners. He threaded nylon baling twine through the holes. I held the calf in a hug around his neck while Bill, straddling his back, draped the pelt over him and tied it off underneath his belly. The calf was quiet and didn’t struggle much, but he was hungry and started searching me for a meal, sucking on my t-shirt. I told him, “Hey, buddy, if you stand still and wait patiently, we’ll get you some milk from tits that are equipped to provide it.”
Bill grabbed the afterbirth from the bucket and smeared it on the pelt, the calf’s head and legs, as well as one of my bare arms! While all this was happening, the cow nervously paced back and forth at the pen gate, softly fussing. Her behavior was relatively calm compared to a couple of past adoptions when the mamas angrily trotted around the pen, loudly cow-cussing us for how we were treating their dead babies!
When we finished dressing the Holstein in his Angus/Simmental disguise, I opened the gate and Bill pushed him into the pen. Cow #608 sniffed the calf and gave it a test lick. She followed him as he walked around the pen, surveying his new temporary digs. We left the barn to allow the new family to bond.
Bill checked on the bonding progress a couple of times. The first time the calf was lying down, probably tuckered out from the trip and costuming ordeal. The second time the calf was up nursing and wagging its tail, a good sign he was getting a meal. Bill was ecstatic when he returned to the house, and cracked open a beer—another successful adoption!
Bill removed the pelt that evening, then turned the new family out to pasture the next morning. Mama and calf are inseparable!