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Agriculture and Natural Resources Blog
Terrell DavisCooperative Extension Agent, Pike CountyPhone: (870) 285-2161Fax: (000) 000-000 Email: email@example.com
by Guest Blogger, Terrell Davis, County Extension Agent – Pike County
Cattlemen and women are dedicated to caring for their herd, and winter management
presents many challenges. Terrell Davis is the Cooperative Extension Agent in Pike County, Arkansas. He is also a cattleman. Davis joins us to tell the story of nurturing a newborn
calf during last week’s winter snowstorm.
On March 11th, I left for work and noticed a heifer separated from the rest of the
herd. Cattlemen know this is a sign she might be going into labor soon. Heifers are
prone to dystocia, defined as difficult or prolonged labor. That morning we knew we
had a special patient on our hands. I called my Dad to let him know to check on her
during his morning rounds of feeding and checking the cows. He replied, “it's probably
#15.” He had been keeping his eye on her for a few days. By mid-morning, he had sent
me a picture of Momma #15 with her new calf. She was working on getting the new addition
cleaned up while learning how to transition from the heifer-crew to the mom-herd.
Around noon it started to snow the biggest flakes I had ever seen. Within minutes,
temperatures plummeted from the mid-50s to the low 30s. Like most of the cattlemen
in Arkansas, I was at my day job, and the cattle were doing the best they could with
the resources available. Snow began accumulating quickly, and my wife sent a picture
of the little white calf covered in snow. Her accompanying text expressed that she
was concerned. I decided to leave work early. When I pulled into the drive, I saw
our new addition laid in the pasture, with no mom in sight. The mom's instincts to
seek protection were stronger than her maternal instincts.
I rushed to the house to get some help from my son and wife. My wife was already on
the job with fresh hay and a heat lamp in the side shed, that used to be a shelter
for our hair sheep. Caring for this newborn calf became a family mission. I got my
son, and we took off to get the calf. As a side note, he drove, and I opened the gates.
I thought he would be the gate opener much longer than it turned out.
To my surprise, when we got to the calf, Mom #15 had remembered her new title. She
had regained her maternal instincts and was ready to fight us off, thinking we were
predators. While it was just the County Agent and his retired Dad, we probably appeared
to be an amateur rodeo clown act as we loaded the calf into the back of the Jeep.
LATCH LESSONS — Jeri Beth Davis, wife of Terrell Davis, working to teach the newborn
calf to latch.
When we got the baby home, we realized just how weak she was. There was no way that
Mom #15 could have gotten this baby dry in the frigid weather. It was obvious that
the newborn had never latched on to mom. My wife was ready to care for the calf, with
a warm bed to lie in and a bottle of colostrum to feed. This baby needed nutrition
in her belly, and we struggled to get the calf to figure out how her tongue works.
After many attempts, we decided to take a break from latch lessons and focus on keeping
the calf warm. Our makeshift shed soon turned into a calf salon, as we used a hairdryer
to keep the baby warm. Looks like hairdryers do the trick for cold calves!
As bedtime approached, we decided to continue the bottle lesson. We carried the calf
inside the house and placed her in the laundry room. Our corgi was suspicious of this
new baby in his space. After we finally got the calf to feed, we fed ourselves, eventually
found our beds, and retired for the night.
The next morning, in true Arkansas-weather fashion, the sun was shining. The promise
of much warmer weather was on the horizon. We took the baby back to the pasture and
reunited her with Mom #15 and the rest of the extended family. At first, #15 wasn’t
quite sure why this little critter was following her every move. Soon she began to
smell and then lick the calf until she concluded that this baby belongs to her. Heifers
can be frustrating on a sunny, warm day. Add in the chaos of an untimely snowstorm
and the farm begins to resemble the bread and milk aisle of the local grocery store.
In the end, this is nothing new to anyone who takes on the responsibility of being
a herdsman. Every family with cattle has been through multiple incidents just like
ours. The wellbeing of our livestock ranks very high on our list. It’s more than our
livelihood, it's our way of life, and one that we love down to our souls. After a
long stressful night, there is nothing better than a happy reunion. It’s a great reminder
that anything worth having will cost a little time and sweat.