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.
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.”
Bill named the abandoned-turned-adoptee calf “Maybe.” But, there’s no “maybe” about it—Sweet Pea loves this calf! Life is good!