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Triggering memories of spindly legs, green pastures

Published on -4/24/2013, 9:51 AM

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What's a trigger? It's not only what you pull to make a gun go off, the dictionary calls it an event that causes something to happen. At a support meeting last week, we talked about triggers we had experienced, a trigger that brought our loved one to mind.

One night driving home after dark, I saw a pickup with its lights on driving around in a pasture. I knew he must have been checking on his cows, which are ready to calve.

That was the trigger that brought Jim to mind. We experienced many calving seasons together.

The birth of a baby calf is such an amazing thing. The baby arrives covered with slick stuff. As it begins to wriggle around, the mother gets up and starts to lick the stuff off the calf's face so it can breath. She continues to clean her baby as it begins to try to get up.

The baby soon will stand and start hunting for food. I always marvel at God's handwork that baby animals can stand up so soon after birth. It's hard to balance on those four spindly legs. And they know where and how to find the mother's udder. That first milk is so important -- it's called colostrum, thick and yellow full of nutrients to help the baby get a good start.

Jim and I always tried to give the shots and put a tag in the baby's ear the day it was born, because it was much easier to catch them -- those little guys could really run. Sometimes, the mother didn't like us teaching her baby, but we figured out ways to protect ourselves.

The mother cow takes very good care of her baby -- watches over it all the time. She will know her baby by its smell and cry. The new calf will learn to recognize the mothers call; when she calls out, the calf will come running.

There will be many calves the same age all born in the same month. When the mother wants to drink and eat, she tells her baby to stay -- what she tells it I have no idea, but the calf will stay right where it was laying.

The mother cows must draw straws to find out who will stay to babysit the bunch of youngsters. If you drive past a herd during this time of year, you might see a cow with a group of baby calves resting near her.

As the calves grow, they are so cute, curious and frisky, they seem to play games running around like kids, it's so much fun to watch them. The calf grows up nursing on the mother and eats the green during the summer.

Many calves will be sold in the fall after being weaned from the mother.

During spring calving time, a stockman checks his cattle after to see if cows need help, especially if he has heifers calving for their first time. Jim and I kept watch when we raised stock cows. It was very cold and stormy in February. I often wondered why we put the bull with the cows in May -- if we had waited the calves would be born in better weather. But calves need to be born early in the year to grow to a good size to sell in the fall.

Saving the newborn calf is of utmost importance. The profit comes from the calf when it's sold or becomes part of the future calving herd. That might sound simple, but there is a lot of hard work involved. The grain and fodder has to be planted and harvested to feed the animals in the winter. In the summer, the cattle graze on pasture grass. But beginning in the fall and through the winter until spring grass appears again, the animals need to be fed no matter what the weather.

It was so great to find the mother and baby doing fine, but I could tell stories about the sad things that can happen.

I'm sure many of you can relate, remember bringing the wet, cold, nearly frozen baby to the barn to warm it up; needing to use the calf-pulling equipment; hunting for the mother when she walked away to have her calf; calling the vet; how hard it is getting up at midnight to take your turn checking the cows.

I really missed Jim as I wrote this story.I kept wanting to ask him about his memories. Another trigger is my memories of being dairy farmers -- that's another story I'll tell sometime in the future.

When I see a pasture with baby calves and their mothers, I smile -- remembering a happy busy time in our life.

I'm looking forward to spring weather and rain so pastures can green up this year.

Opal Flinn is a member of The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.

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