The second part of the story about our history-making banner day on September 8th was that Chubby birthed twins. Not the usual heifer and bull as we’ve had in the past, but two bulls. As I stated in my last post, bull or steer calves bring more money than heifers at the sale barn. You can just imagine how deliriously happy Bill was when he tagged the calves, checked their plumbing and discovered they were both bulls!
As with any birth of twins in our operation, there was an adventure. But first, the story of the
Bill's Bargain Basement Bovines
The cattleman was anxious to get rid of the pair so discounted the price. Bill reluctantly agreed to take them. Since then, Bill has referred to these six cows has his “Bargain Basement Cows.”
The members of this not-so-elite group were:
“Hereford” – One of our favorites due to her gentle disposition. She was a good mom, had plenty of milk and raised great calves. Unfortunately, we had to sell her earlier this year because her milk supply failed.
“Prolapse” – Another Hereford and the subject of a chapter by that name in my book. She suffered a uterine prolapse with the birth of her calf the following year. That was our first experience with prolapse. The veterinarian was able to repair the problem and save the cow. But Bill later sold her and the calf.
No Name, No Number – Probably the best cow of the bunch but didn’t breed a few years ago and was subsequently sold.
#207 and #261 – Not named, but both produce good calves and are still members of our herd.
“Chubby” – The almost-rejected cow with the horns and now a sentimental favorite. Since “Knothead,” she’s raised good calves. In the beginning her disposition was flighty, but she’s mellowed with age and even eats range cubes out of our hands!
During a break in the culinary action, I changed back into my still-damp-from-sweat farm clothes, grabbed the binoculars and my cell phone, stepped into my trusty gumboots and clomped out in the heat and humidity on the half-mile walk to find the cow. The trek was mostly uphill through tall native grass. If she was lying in the low area, I’d probably almost be on top of her when I found her. And that’s what happened.
The cow was Chubby. I’d startled her and she struggled to her feet. There was no calf but I could see mucus streaming from her back end. I turned and retreated as quickly and quietly as possible while trying not to fall into one of the ditches, and hoped she wouldn’t be agitated and leave this area.
Bill was fishing at Lake Perry. I pulled out my cellphone and called him from the pasture with the news. From my description, he surmised Chubby was just starting labor and there was no reason to rush home yet.
He arrived home a couple of hours later, picked me up and we drove out to the area where I’d seen Chubby. She was still there and cleaning off a newly-born calf. Bill parked a short distance away, grabbed a bucket of grain and his ear-tagger and slowly walked toward her. He poured the grain on the ground and walked around her to tag the calf, where he found another calf! Omigosh, twins!
Bill quietly walked back to the truck and reloaded the tagger. After he tagged the second calf, he checked the plumbing and determined they were both bulls—another historical event in our calving operation. Previously, our sets of twins all consisted of a bull and heifer. And to top it off, Chubby appeared to claim both calves: She had cleaned them off and was letting both nurse. Hot dang and hallelujah! This called for a Margarita before we ate lunch!
Early that evening we drove back out to the pasture to check on the new family. Chubby had relocated about 150 yards from her labor and delivery location…and we saw only one calf. Bill circled around the new area, driving slowly so he didn't accidentally run over the missing calf before we saw it. But we didn’t see the other twin. Unfortunately, even if a cow cleans both twins and lets them suck, she may not always round up both of them when she goes on the move. If one calf is napping and doesn’t get up, it gets left behind.
We knew if we didn’t find that missing twin before nightfall it would be coyote bait, as Bill calls it. He slowly and carefully drove back to the birth area, both of us intently looking out our respective windows in case the calf had started out with the rest of the family but became weak and laid down. We arrived at the birth area and found him curled up asleep. Bill parked the pickup several yards away, as close as he could get because of the ditches, and opened up the back. He picked up the calf, carried him to the truck, loaded him, shut the tailgate and topper door, and heaved a huge sigh of relief. We’d found the calf and he was alive!
But the little bull was weak and may or may not have gotten much colostrum from Chubby. We considered taking him to the barn for the night and giving him a bottle of a just-add-water substitute, then trying to reunite him with Chubby the next morning. She and the other calf were about a quarter mile from the gate then, but they could be anywhere in the pasture by tomorrow.
Bill stopped the truck, grabbed his herding sticks and walked toward the pair. Chubby wasn’t pleased to be poked at with a stick and even less so when Bill prodded her calf. She shook her head and expressed her displeasure at being bothered in terse cow-speak. Further urging from Bill got her and the calf headed in the general direction of the gate into the small corral pasture. He motioned for me to follow in the truck at a distance.
Chubby veered off a couple of times but Bill redirected her back on course. The calf followed along. About 100 yards from the gate, Bill motioned and yelled for me to circle wide, drive through the gate and stop a short distance beyond. I got out of the truck and watched as Bill herded the pair to the gate, marveling that this adventure was about to have a happy ending.
Then Chubby bolted. She loped away from the gate and along the fence. The calf tried to follow, but Bill grabbed its hind leg and dragged it back toward the gate while it squalled in protest. Hearing the distress cry, Chubby slammed on her bovine brakes, reversed direction and lumbered to the rescue right through the gate!
I was so relieved and happy I teared up.
Bill opened the back of truck, lifted out the abandoned twin and set him down near Chubby. He gave him a little shove toward the teats and the hungry little bull latched on. When Bill checked on them later, he saw the calf eating again and heard loud slurping noises. He kept them in the corral pasture for a few days to reinforce the familial bond then opened the gate so they could join the first-calf heifers in the small pasture we can monitor from the house.
Historical events and hallelujah moments in the Hilbert herd!