Birth & Death

☆ March 21, 2011

One morning last week or the week before, Mike showed up at my house at 7am.  He had a meeting a quarter way across the state that he had to attend and he was stopping by to give me the morning cow report since I would be the only one on the place overseeing any births that day.

Calving had been going incredibly well, with most of the cows calving between 11am and 1pm, and only a few as early as 6am or as late as 6pm.  Only one heifer had needed assistance with her birth, but she was an unusually small cow, which was why she needed help getting her baby into this world.  I knew I’d be holding down the homestead all day but did not expect much work other than strolling through the cows every couple of hours as they grazed on hay and lounged about.

Mike burst that bubble when he arrived with the following information: “Two heifers calved this morning, one pair is fine, the other calf isn’t up – I found it with the sac on its face and pulled it off and it took a massive breath but hasn’t been up to suck yet – and another heifer is prolapsed but hasn’t calved.”

Translation:  Two first-time mothers had their babies.  One pair (mother and calf) were fine but the other calf had not been cleaned off by its mother, and the calf could have died of suffocation as the water sack was still covering its face.  Mike saw this and pulled it off, but had to leave before he saw the calf get up and drink successfully, but he did note the number of the cow standing beside this calf so that I could observe.   A third first-time-mom was prolapsed; this means her guts had come out of her body during labor.

And then he was out the door, with a long drive ahead of him.

I said a swear word in my head and pulled on boots and a heavy coat and hat and scarf and grabbed leather gloves – it was a chilly morning but, worse than that, it was really windy – and hiked up to Mike’s house.  I found the calf and a very disinterested heifer standing next to it and her number matched the number Mike had given me.  The calf was stretched out on the ground – it’s head was not up – this is not a good sign.  I checked to see if it was still alive and it was, it was still breathing, though its breaths were labored and it was still completely wet – this, too, is not good when a calf is weak to begin with and the morning is cold and windy.

But, before I could attend to the calf, I had to see the prolapsed cow.  I had called the vet as I was getting dressed and he said that if I could get the cow to the corrals and contain her, he could come by and put her back together and everything would probably turn out just fine.  When I saw the cow, I knew that plan would be impossible.  Even though she was lying down, I could see the mass coming out her body was simply too large.  It would have been painful and dangerous to have her walk down to the corrals, especially because there was one unavoidable stretch of sagebrush and weeds that could have easily caught or punctured the mass of guts that would have trailed behind her.

I knew she needed to be transported via trailer but I was certain I couldn’t accomplish that task on my own.  So, THIS GUY and his neighbor came to the rescue.  They pulled up with horse trailer in tow (with a saddled horse inside) hopped out, scoped the scene, and in half a minute, they had a plan in place.  While M bridled his horse, S drove the truck and trailer into the field, not twenty feet from the cow, and backed it perpendicular to the fence.  M opened the back of the trailer and made sure the door fit snugly against the fence, creating an L shaped corridor along the fenceline and into the trailer.

As M approached the prolapsed cow on horseback, she stood, and calmly walked the fenceline to the trailer.  She then had to turn and enter the dark trailer, and balked, but I bounced into her intended path and she stopped, calmly reconsidering her options.  M threw a large, easy loop with his lariat around the cow’s head and chest, but he didn’t cinch it – it just sat loosely around her, ready to be tightened if she decided to make a run for it in the wrong direction.  S cooed at her, urging her to take a few steps forward again and step into the trailer, and she did just that.  M wound up his lariat, loaded his horse in the compartment behind her, gave me wink, and off they went.

M was headed to the sale barn in town, which is where the vet was spending the morning preg testing cows, and he offered to drove the cow to town and hand her off directly to the vet.  The time spanning their arrival to their departure was less than ten minutes.  These guys are pros, and it was simply beautiful to watch them work with such calm competence.

I then turned my full attention to the calf.  This calf was large ~ not abnormally large, but closer to 100 pounds than 70 pounds and I couldn’t carry it.  I had to move it out of the wind, so I used my one of my newly acquired EMT emergency moves.  I ran to Mike’s house, got a sheet, laid it beside the calf, flipped the calf onto the sheet, and dragged the calf to shelter.  I sat beside him with his head in my lap and dried him off, got him warmed up, and tried to figure out what exactly was wrong with him.

The calf was having a lot of trouble breathing.  He also had some sort of deformity with his head ~ I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong with his head, visually, just that something was very, very off.  He did not move easily on his own ~ his limbs were stiff and uncoordinated and his tongue was thick and heavy, filling the side of his mouth.  He did not have the sucking reflex when I put my finger in his mouth, and his tongue kept sliding into a weird position which further blocked his airway.  (EMT trivia! A child’s tongue, in relation to the mouth, is proportionately larger than an adult’s tongue, therefore, it is more likely to cause airway obstruction and hinder respirations)

Everything about this calf seemed like the result of poor perfusion (EMT vocab term!  lack of oxygen and buildup of waste material at the cell level) As I sat in the dirt with the calf’s head on my lap, I wished I had an oxygen tank and mask.  I totally would have put it on the calf.  Instead, I continued to rub the calf and talk to it, and then, perhaps an hour later, seeing no change in the calf, I left it on the sheet and walked home, checking the rest of the cows.  It was either going to live or it was going to die.

I tried to work for an hour and then I ran up to Mike’s to check on the calf again.  It was still laying down all the way, but it was breathing.  What I found odd and irritating was that it’s mother was completely ignoring it.  She was on the other side of the pasture, sleeping.  Sometimes, a heifer will ignore her baby, but it really is rare.  This cow’s complete lack of attention to this calf struck me as off, too, though I couldn’t place why.

I sat with the calf and talked to it some more, and it managed to hold it’s head up for short periods of time.  His sucking reflex was evident, too, though it was quite weak.  Both these developments made me extremely hopeful.  I went to Mike’s house and prepared a bottle of Daisy’s colostrum milk that I had frozen when Frisco was born (she produced more than he could drink), and tried to help the calf drink a little.  But it was difficult, as the calf was still so weak and uncoordinated, and he only drank, at most, a few tablespoons.

After a while I went back home, and while I was there, the vet called.  The cow was dead.  Everything had gone fine ~ he had put her back together, stitched her up, and the cow had been stable under anesthesia, but when the vet gave her a shot to bring her out from anesthesia, her heart stopped.  “You’ve got a dead calf out there,” he said, as we were ending the call.  “What?” I asked, totally confused.  “She calved already,” the vet told me; “she calved during the prolapse.  So her calf is out there, but it’s probably dead.”

I ran back up to Mike’s house.  I scoured the pasture and draws, looking for a dead calf, and found none.  I tracked down the cow that Mike had said was the mother to the calf I had been nursing all morning.  I looked at her udder.  It was small, and, while a heifer can have a small udder, hers was definitely not full enough to indicate having calved.  “I bet this calf is the prolapsed cow’s calf!” I thought to myself, very pleased with the thought.  I was heartbroken that the cow had died but was determined to keep her calf alive.

When Mike finally called on his drive home, I asked him if he had seen the birth of the calf in question or not.  He had not actually seen it happen ~ he had just seen the obviously-newly-born calf with a heifer standing next to it and, in the rush of the morning, assumed it was its mother.

When Mike got home, he carried the calf – who had still not been able to stand up all day – into his house and built a fire.  I sat on the floor in front of the fireplace with the giant newborn calf on my lap, and, as it got warmer and warmer, the calf seemed to get stronger and friskier.  I pointed out the head deformity to Mike, who was able to pinpoint what was off ~ there was a puffiness around the calf’s throat and jaw, most likely lividity – the settling of fluids – that probably occurred during the difficult birth.  (This completely disappeared within days.)

I warmed up the bottle again, and this time, the calf drank it all!  He even stood up and was able to teeter around.  Mike and I built a playpen of sorts out of furniture, effectively penning the calf in a small area in front of the fireplace for the night, and though he was still somewhat weak the next morning, his vitality and coordination were steadily improving.

This will seem like a tangent, but it’s not: Mike’s cows are numbered; the numbers have meaning (birth year, linage) and, while this might seem impersonal, Mike and I know all the temperaments and personalities and quirks of each cow; their numbers are like names to us.  Kind of like that couple who named their dog Diogee.

There’s a cow whose number-name is 412, and I have always been acutely aware of this cow’s goings-on, because she’s my birthday cow.  Her number is my birthday.  She’s like my sister-cow.  412 had given birth two days prior, to a stillborn calf.  This isn’t terribly common, but it is terribly sad.  412 could not accept that her baby was dead.  She stood under tree where she had given birth, guarding the tiny corpse, nudging it periodically, urging it to come to life.  She would not leave her calf.  She had held vigil for two days and counting.

Since the days were still cold, we left the calf where it was, with her.  There was the outside possibility that twins would be born in a matter of days and, since cows generally only raise one, orphaning the second, we could give one to 412 to raise.  Twins were not born, but we now had an orphan calf.

The next morning, Mike rode his 4-wheeler down to 412, snatched up her baby, and drove to the corrals with 412 hot on his heels.  He put her into a small stall.  We then drove the orphan calf down to the corrals.  While I held him, Mike quickly skinned 412’s dead calf.  We cut holes in the four corners of the pelt and fit the orphan baby’s legs through these holes, the pelt covering his back.  This is called ‘jacketing.’  A mother cow knows her baby by smell, and will not let any other calf drink her milk.  We had to make 412 believe that this new calf was really her calf.  That is why we gave it the ‘jacket’ of the dead calf.

We put the calf in with 412 and she rushed to him, mooing gently, licking him, absolutely in love.  It was her baby!  And she was A-OK with him nursing her.  He latched on and drank till he was full.  Two days later, we removed the jacket; by that time, 412’s milk had circulated through the calf and his scent was hers.  And they are a pair, and it is a beautiful sight, especially as it had been borne from dual tragedies.


169 Responses to “Birth & Death”

  1. NG in NH
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    Wow — that is quite a story. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. May they continue to do well.

  2. Liane
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:01 pm


  3. Maggie
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

    What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing that! While the “jacketing” sounds a little gross, it totally makes sense and I believe that if you’re in that situation, it’s really not gross at all. Just immensely practical. :)

  4. Coral
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    Awww! This is a great story. I believe people do the jacketing thing with other animals as well. I’ve heard of it before, but I didn’t know it was done with cattle. Very cool. :)

  5. velocibadgergirl
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    What a lovely end to a sad tale!

  6. annbb
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    What a wonderful farmily tale. Loved every word of it.

  7. Deborah
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    One life ends and another life begins. This is truly a story of love and devotion. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Sandy
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

    Thanks so much for this story of love and devotion—must say it made me cry!! I have heard of jacketing and knew it to work. Thanks again!

  9. trina
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

    such a tragic begining , but with a beautiful ending. now here I sit in line at school waiting to pick up kids crying.

  10. C in OC
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:56 pm


  11. Melissa
    March 21st, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    What a moving story, thanks for sharing.

  12. Scotty
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    whew. spring has sprung.

  13. Lorrian
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    Shreve, thank you for sharing this story. I’m in tears at my desk…thankful that 412 and her ‘new’ calf are happy together.

  14. Milaka
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Carrie Ann
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    What an incredible story. Thank you for writing this all down.

  16. Keith
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    Damn this was interesting !!

  17. June
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    Talk about a literally transformative story (one calf magically morphs into another). How wonderful that you were able to restore the dead calf to the mother in mourning (as far as she knew), while saving the orphaned calf. This is as perfectly dovetailed an ending as one could hope for. Also inspiring to read of all the caring and knowledge behind it: yours, Mike’s, the vet’s, and those two great neighbors of yours. A beautiful story, and just the right length.

  18. Sylv
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

    You helped the calf on its way to survival and your sister-cow took over from there – just wonderful!

  19. Amy Jo
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    I absolutely love it when you talk about the farm and the animals. What a heartbreaking and inspiring story this is. I can’t imagine the things you do as a rancher – it’s amazing to me.

  20. Jo Davis
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    tears here too…but of joy!!! :) thank you for sharin’ your incredible life!!!

  21. Flb0308
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

    That is amazing. I could never live the life you do, but its fun to read about. :-)

  22. Regina Ellis
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I’ve seen so much of life and death in my life and only rarely does the death of one give life to another. I’m so glad you knew what to do.

  23. CeeJay
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    Beautiful story of spring!

  24. Barbara R
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    Woah. Now THAT is True Grit. Beautiful.

  25. Po
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    Thank you for taking time from your very busy life to tell us this story. I grew up on a farm, and we occasionally had orphaned calves, but they usually ended up bottle fed (a job I loved.) Your juxtaposition of life and death is sensitive and so true.

  26. Marina
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:53 pm


  27. WendyAA
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    I am imagining 412’s joy when she saw that her calf was “alive.”

  28. LisaR
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

    Ditto to so many of the comments above. I feel so invested in your farmily, I can’t wait for a picture of 412 and her calf!

  29. JB
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    I love this story! Hurrah! I must also say and I hope it’s not TMI but I actually got cramps while reading about the birthing and prolapse part. And I’m post menopausal by about 10 years! Guess some “feelings” never leave you!

  30. Catherine Chandler
    March 21st, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    Wow! What an incredible journey during this calving season. That’s so sad that the mother cow died, but so incredible that you were able to keep her baby alive and get him adopted by another mother. How sorrowful, yet sweet. Thank you for sharing!

  31. Tess
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

    That’s a beautiful story, it got me tearing up. It’s so sweet that 412 got a baby after all, and what a great mom she sounds like refusing to leave her first baby.

  32. Penny in Co
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Wow! I was hanging on every word! I am SO happy with your outcome! I am sure that calf will be really special to you now too…like your sister cow. Truly amazing how the Circle of Life happens. Thanks so much for sharing the story Shreve..and I didn’t think it was that long :)

  33. Tiny Tyrant
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

    Okay crying. Glad the baby made it and the momma had a chance to be a momma.

    Sorry for the other calf and the heifer that died, but circle of life and another chance was given.

  34. Sierra
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    What an amazing story! That must have been hard for you, but I’m glad that 412 and the orphan now get to have what they had just lost.

    The story of jacketing reminds me of the Aztec deity Xipe Totec, whose name means “Our Lord the Flayed One.” He’s god of life and death and agriculture and he flayed himself to give food to humanity. Sculptures of Xipe Totec were thought to be dressed with the skin of human sacrifices and shamans would act that part of Xipe Totec by wearing the skins as well.

  35. catherine
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    412 and her baby, what a great story.

  36. Janet M
    March 21st, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

    What a beautiful story, it made me cry at the sad parts, but I’m glad that it is working out for the survivors.

  37. montanarose
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

    Shreve, of the many marvelous stories you’ve shared with us, this is one of the best. You’re so damn competent, girl! Probably ‘cuz you’re a fellow Aries (you’re 412; I’m 407).

    Good luck to 412 and her new baby. You saved one critter’s life and made another very happy (yes, I believe animals have emotions, especially mamas).

  38. TomT
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    Awesome story! Thanks for sharing.

  39. pam
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Oh, Shreve,,,tears in my eyes from sadness for those that died but a smile on my face for the ones who will now live together, happy and peaceful. A very happy ending to such a beautiful story. && what a huge part YOU played in all of this!! also great to be reminded of that gorgeous cowboy in “those” boots!
    congrats on the success of this operation.

  40. Melissa
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

    What a beautiful story. Your constant care and love of your animals makes me long for days on the farm. And to hear the stories of love these great creatures carry for their own offspring is heartwarming. I remember as a child being heartbroken watching a Mama who’s baby didn’t make it. Their mourning and unending love was a life lesson.

  41. Evan
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    great story!

  42. Evan
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    If you have a 42 or 402 cow, please give her a extra treat from another Aries.

  43. C
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

    That was an intense story! I may have been holding my breath!

  44. Marva Felchlin
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    Had me on the edge of the chair. Thanks for bringing the “real West” to me.

  45. JC
    March 21st, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    My heart is touched . . . my mascara is running down my face too (why do I wear this again?).

    You know what is so awesome? That HOME video on Daily Coyote. I just watched it again. Crazy good . . . crazy, crazy good.

  46. Renae
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    You are just awesome. Both of you!
    I know it’s part of what you do in Wyoming but
    you both have hearts as big as Texas…lol, (actually bigger).
    Bless both of you and may you always find awesome solutions to life’s challenges!

  47. Laurels
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    Thank you so much for these little glimpses into the true lives of cows on a farm. This story amazes me, and warms my heart.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  48. Anne
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    I think you got an early birthday gift, you rock!

  49. Melissa
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

    Such a touching story Shreve! I love reading about your farmly life. It transports me to my wannabe country roots! I’m also another one who love the Home video. Perfect combination of song and action!! :)

  50. Cindi B.
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    I’m a city slicker and I love reading these stories. Thanks for taking the time to include all the details– such a wonderful story.

  51. Meg A.
    March 21st, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

    What an amazing story, thank you for sharing!

  52. Liz
    March 21st, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

    Wow. I held my breath while reading! What a captivating story–thank you for sharing!

  53. msdramateacherlady
    March 21st, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    Wow! You truly lead an amazing life, full of so many wonderful experiences. Thank you for sharing.

  54. Sandy
    March 21st, 2011 @ 7:52 pm

    am i wrong or is there still a missing calf somewhere? saw the wonders of jacketing with half-pint over on carols website…it was something to behold for sure!!!

  55. shreve
    March 21st, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

    S ~ uh, you’re wrong :)

  56. TT in MD
    March 21st, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    what a story – amid the sadness of losing a cow and a calf dying, a calf survives and a mom is happy again! Your EMT training is helping out in more ways than one :)

    a bitter sweet story I read at the end of a long frustrating day at work – a reconnection to nature always helps.

    Do keep us posted on how this little calf and Mom makes out.

    And yea! Daisy is eating grass – spring is around the corner – we’re just seeing glimpses here in MD —-

  57. kelly
    March 21st, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    Amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing, Shreve.

  58. Sandy
    March 21st, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    ok…i thought that the disinterested heifer had had a calf somewhere…my bad!

  59. CM Hooper
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

    Wow. Great outcome. I knew that EMT training would come in handy on the ranch.

  60. carmel
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

    a story indeed…thanks…never heard of the ‘jacketing’ before, but isn’t nature wonderful…?

  61. Carrie
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

    This reads like something out of a James Herriot book. I love it!

  62. Beth K
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story. People forget how hard a life ranching can be, physically and emotionally, and the rewards that can come out of it.
    I also like Evan’s idea: if there’s a 330, give her an extra scratch behind the ears for me. :)

  63. Laney
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

    Shreve, what a heartbreaking and heartwarming post. An emotional roller coaster, for sure.
    Thank you :)

  64. Luci
    March 21st, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

    This is a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. Please post a picture of the 412 and the baby soon.

  65. bonnie
    March 21st, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

    i love it that the orphan calf got to spend the nite corraled in mikes’ living room!

  66. Jenny C
    March 21st, 2011 @ 11:24 pm


    So glad the prolapsed cow suffered no further and died while under anesthesia or I’d be entirely undone.

    Wonderful that you saved Daisy’s colostrum, didn’t give up on the calf and worked miracles while left on your own.

    Most of all, I’m glad the mourning mom now has a baby, and the orphaned baby has a mother. All is well. (Still hurts my tender heart… shoot.)

  67. Kate
    March 21st, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    I found that story utterly enthralling. Thank you so much for sharing.

  68. Alex
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 3:29 am

    Tearing up here, too…
    I am so glad to hear about the happy ending for the two.

    Reading about how the mother cow mourned her dead baby… it makes my heart ache for all the many, many poor dairy cows in the world, who are lifelong trapped in this cruel circle of being pregnant, giving birth, and having their newborn taken away – just so that we can have the milk that nature intended for their baby.
    Thank you for reminding us what gentle, sensitive creatures cows really are. Will you treat us to a picture of the two if you get the chance?

  69. Deanna
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:29 am

    I’m crying. I’m bawling. This is the most wonderful thing I can ever remember reading. What a perfect ending for such terrible trajedy.

  70. Ginny
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:52 am

    So beautifully written….It didn’t turn out as the reader thought! What emotional stamina it must take to live that life.

  71. Kelly
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 6:16 am

    This is a sad story with a redemptive ending. Lovely.

  72. Nancey
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 6:34 am

    Amazing story, riveting, I forgot my whole breakfast sandwich, I couldn’t tear myself away from this story, so glad it all worked out in the end… beautiful.

  73. Cin
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 6:39 am

    As a girl, I read everything by James Herriot
    ( Thanks Shreve, you took me back :)

  74. LEISEL
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 6:51 am

    Many of us have no idea what this kind of work entails. One must balance compassion with true grit; it cannot be easy. The miracle of a saved life, soothes the grief of a loss. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  75. NancyS
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:09 am

    Heartbreaking & uplifting at the same time, thank you for sharing. I’m so happy I found your website.

  76. Tirzah
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:10 am

    The cycle of life… pretty powerful stuff.

  77. Holly Shepherd
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:13 am

    I was so happy at the ending to your story.Nature has a funny way of working things out for animals, and thanks to your EMT you picked up so much about what was happening that otherwise you might not have know. Sooo glad the “other” mother took to the new baby..I actually saw that done, jacketing, on a James Herriot story, from “All Creatures Great and Small” Fantastic!!!

  78. Festive
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:28 am

    Thank you so much for sharing Shreve.

  79. Chibi Sylphe
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:29 am

    Hi Shreve,
    I never write (but read avidly) and this story really moved me. Thank you for sharing it.

  80. EBFirelight
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 8:09 am

    You are a wonderful storyteller and writer. This brought back many memories. I was married to a veterinarian for twenty-two years and miss those difficult but oh-so-worth-it times. Thank you Shreve, for all you do.

  81. Terry V.
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    What a wonderful ending to a very tricky beginning. Thanks for sharing your farm life with those of us who push paper all day and will probably never know the joy (and harshness) of living the rural life. I really appreciate your stories. Best to 412 and her baby. And to you and those cowboy heros you surround yourself with!

  82. Nanci
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 8:53 am

    In a world where it seems like everything is falling apart, this true tale of nature (and dedicated people) working things out, brings much joy and hope. Keep it coming Shreve!

  83. Amanda
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:14 am

    Gah, “jacketing” sounds so squicky. I get its purpose, and it’s wonderful that it worked; but I can’t stop thinking about the human equivalent… it sounds like something from an Argento film. ;)

  84. MCJ
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    what a great way to start my morning. And it was just the right length. Wish you had more time to write more of these little tales of life and life-after. Thank you.

  85. Ann Odle
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    The poetry of life isn’t always the way we’d like it to be; I’m so glad there was a happy ending to this story though!

  86. pogonip
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    If only all problems resolved this beautifully, Shreve. I’m so happy 412 and the little bummer calf found each other.

  87. Ida S.
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  88. Debbie
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 10:04 am

    Most don’t know what ranchers go through during the calving season. There was a show on “Animal Planet” called “Last American Cowboy” it was about 3 cattle ranches each run a different way but it showed the life of the american cowboy and the trials and tribulations they went through to get their cattle to market every year. If I was younger, I would actually prefer that (and your) way of life. I 100% support our farmers and ranchers and their way of life and hope that they really are not a dieing breed…I dont think we can survive without them..

  89. Debbie
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    PS ~ Thank you for sharing your story….

  90. chere
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    I loved this.

  91. Ginger
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 10:40 am

    This, is by far, my favourite post EVER! You have to give this calf a really cool name.
    Thank-you for sharing.

  92. Laura
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    Wow – what an interesting story. You are a very strong person. I would not last long in your world. Thank you for sharing this sad and also beautiful experience.

  93. kay
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 11:02 am

    Tragedy and joy – life is raw and beautiful. Thanks for this glimpse into your reality.

  94. Robin Nowak
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 11:31 am

    I remember your neighbor Carol telling us a story similar to this last year. But this one–on Shreve… that baby is so lucky you were there for him… and what a great evening of warming a baby and watching him come back….
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  95. Lynne
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    I love happy endings . . . Would love to see pics of the happy pair!!

  96. mlaiuppa
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    Out of death, comes life.

  97. Chris
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

    You have a very simple but vivid style of writing; it suits events like this very well. How mundane, in the sense of being the day-to-day, largely unsung labor and drama that we tend to gloss over in our increasingly urbanized, mechanized lives. And how moving.

    I’d heard of “jacketing” being used with ewes and lambs; what a fascinating, lovely account. And a point well made: that most farmers and ranchers are deeply connected to their animals, even the ones they raise for food. People like that have a genuine respect for animal life, even if they routinely kill.

    Losing that perspective would be a profound loss for human culture; I hope we never come to that point.

  98. Nathalie
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    You live a miraculous life woman, I envy you very much. Keep up the great work and congratulations on your new special addition. Pics please!

  99. jessi lee
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    Great story! What an experience!!

  100. Sheila
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

    Aww, that made me cry.

    I had heard of “jacketing” before; but with

  101. Renee
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

    Thank you, Shreve. I once nursed an orphaned calf, but with a different outcome. This is absolutely heartwarming! What great problem solving skills!

  102. Assana
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 4:03 pm
  103. Assana
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 4:03 pm


  104. Rachel
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    I’ve read this twice and cried both times, especially at the part where 412 sees her (new) baby and runs to it. Ah, it just gets me!

  105. Stephen Bove
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

    Thanks for sharing.

  106. GD
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    I remember reading a similar story over on Carol’s website about the jacketing. Sad for the dead calf (being skinned and all) but he saved the other calf. Hugs to 412 and “her” baby!!

  107. GD
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    And hugs to 824 cow if you have one!

  108. Ailsa
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    Pics please! Really riveting and heartwarming.
    Thank you for your words.

  109. Susan
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    What a beautiful, heart-rending (and mending) accounting. Bovine husbandry at it’s best!

    Mr. Green Boots is my new hero.

  110. Leesa
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

    A lovely story about life on the ranch. We actually have a “jacketed” baby on our farm right now, it is amazing how the mommy cow will claim an orphan after being convinced by the smell it is her baby. Otherwise it is quite a hard process. We’ve also got our milk cow raising her baby and an adopted baby while still supplying us with milk. Our Daisy is a wonderful wet nurse :)

  111. Steph in Oregon
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write this story, Shreve. There is so much to be learned from this. Being a team–you and Mike, the kindness of others, things aren’t always what they seem, and…mother nature is still in charge.

  112. jacqui pomeranski
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:15 pm


  113. sasha richardson
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 7:39 pm


  114. Donna D.
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    Wow, what a lot to contend with! I’m glad the calf turned out ok. So sorry about the dead cow.

  115. Jia En
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    What a beautiful, beautiful story! :’)

  116. candy
    March 22nd, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    pics! i am wiping tears away, you write so wonderfully!! pics pics pics of this pair!!

  117. Heatherface
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 2:37 am

    I absolutely loved reading this, what an incredible story. Admittedly, the jacketing grossed me out bigtime, but I totally understood why it was done. But still, ew. lol

  118. Amy
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 5:00 am

    No fair making me cry at work, but thank you for sharing the tale.

  119. Carolyne
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    Has having one of those “Terrible, no good, crappy days” till I read this! LOVED it…. Thanks! :)

  120. Jay
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 9:11 am

    As a nurse all this EMT talk makes me happy yesoyes.

    The bit about jacketing, and the calf broke my heart </3 But I’m glad a new bond was forged out of tragedy.

    Best wishes.

  121. Colleen G
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Great, heartbreaking story. You, Mike & your friends are the best! I am a fellow Aries too! Where’s cow #321 ??!! Peace, good health and happiness to the farmily :D

  122. jenniferg
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    Absolutely perfect story. I loved it. Thank you so much for sharing that as well as everything else.

    From another 412, give them extra nose pets and I also cannot wait for pictures.

  123. Leslie
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 11:38 am

    This gave me chills to read. What a great way that nature works.

  124. Theresa Szpila
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

    When I read this yesterday, I was so touched, and felt so transported by both the story and the writing, I couldn’t even respond.

    Now that I’ve read it again today, I’m still so overawed that I’m still pretty much speechless.

    Shreve, you are awesome! What you were able to do for the prolapsed cow, her calf, and 412 is all so amazing.

    I’m so sorry the prolapsed cow and 412’s birth calf didn’t survive – I know it must be a heartbreak for you and Mike – but I’m so grateful 412 and the orphaned calf have become their own little family.

    What a beautiful, bitter-sweet story, and how beautifully told! I could see it all unfolding in my mind’s eye, as though through a film maker’s lens. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    When you can (and once you’ve caught your breath), please let us know the lucky calf’s name.

    Bless you, Shreve, for being who and what you are.

  125. Marilyn LeBlond
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I love how the strange and dangling parts of the story (uncaring heifer, uncared for calf with odd head, dying cow with missing calf…) are brought around and seen in a different light, all details tied up when the story is fully understood, a beautiful and poetic symmetry.

    I expect the calf’s name will be a number, and I don’t think you really need anyone else to point out that we want pictures . . ., but we do!

  126. Susan
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

    Shreve, I saw this today and thought of you:

    Maybe it could be adapted for calves or other small farm animals with a silicone funnel or something?

  127. brig
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

    really incredible.

  128. Star Sided
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 7:39 pm


    I’m not sure if you’re a big Terry Pratchett fan, Shreve, but this post recalled one of my favorite quotes (from my favorite book, no less).

    “We are as gods to the beasts of the field. We order the time of their birth and the time of their death. Betweentimes…we have a duty.”

  129. linds
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    u didn’t by chance take a pix of the calf wearing the skin did u?

  130. Sandie McKnight
    March 23rd, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    I love the way you tell a story, spin a yarn. You should write a book, become a writer. Oh, you already are. You kinda remind me of James Herriot with Charlie stories and Frisco and your rural lifestyle. Now EMT training, look forward to each new installment. And, I had thought that hot cowboy in the green boots was “your” special friend, Mike. Phew, I envy you.

  131. Helen Jane
    March 24th, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    Thanks for the beautiful story.

  132. Tracy
    March 24th, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    Wow, amazing story Shreve! I was on the edge of my seat here in the office reading it. (Of course now I’m trying not to let the work mates see the tears!)
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  133. Sarah
    March 24th, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    This is a beautiful post, Shreve. I’m so glad you are willing to share the less glamorous details of ranching.

  134. Susan
    March 24th, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    Oh Thank you, Shreve. I’m crying tears of sadness and truely painted a beautiful, heartwarming picture. :)

  135. Lisa
    March 24th, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

    Absolutely fascinating!

  136. Phyllis
    March 24th, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

    Tell me again why so many people think that animals have no feelings.

  137. angie
    March 24th, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

    oh wow. your life is so amazing!

  138. Kelly
    March 25th, 2011 @ 9:22 am

    Beautiful story!! Thank you so much for sharing. I also grew up raising cattle. Lots of hard work but lots of reward!!

  139. Mishka
    March 25th, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    Wow, what a great story. You totally made my day. So sorry about that cow that died…I didn’t know that prolapsing was common. So glad though that the orphan and mama cow could connect as well as they did!!!

  140. Lizzie L
    March 25th, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    What a sad and beautiful story, with such a happy ending. I also read a lot of James Herriot and learned many of these veterinary terms as a child. You are very brave to be able to do these things, and you are also very intuitive to know what these animals need from you, both physically and emotionally.

    I’m so glad this ended well!

  141. Janet H.
    March 25th, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    You truly do have a gift for writing descriptively and making us ‘see’ the story through your words just as beautifully as you tell a story through your photos.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  142. Suggestion Saturday: March 26, 2011 | On The Other Hand
    March 26th, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    […] Birth & Death. How beauty can sprout from terribly sad events. Stories like these convince me I could never be a rancher! […]

  143. Diane
    March 26th, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    I loved reading this! So glad there was a happy ending for the “orphan mama” cow and the orphan calf – made my day!

  144. Lisa
    March 26th, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    Hugs to all the calves and the mamas! Thank you, Shreve!

  145. Steph N
    March 26th, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    You tell (write) some of the best stories!
    Thanks for sharing!

  146. Sheila
    March 26th, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

    Thank you Shreve – needed that wonderful story in grim times in NH.

  147. Bethany
    March 27th, 2011 @ 5:32 am


  148. Gabrielle
    March 27th, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    Awww, wow, I love this story!

  149. Crazy Princess
    March 27th, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    This post, this story just took my breath away. What an incredible tale of life and death. You are truly blessed to be a part of this wonderful, albeit scary and thrilling, lifestyle. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  150. Terrry
    March 28th, 2011 @ 12:13 am

    Wow. Great story. Thank you for talking the time to write it down.

  151. hello haha narf
    March 28th, 2011 @ 10:04 am

    i’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. i love that you and mike didn’t give up, i love that 412 didn’t give up. spectacular tale of perseverance. (412 is my area code…pittsburgh is my home. while i know that you can’t possibly understand how much i needed this story today, it is like it spoke to me personally when you threw in the 412. very cool.)

  152. hello haha narf
    March 28th, 2011 @ 10:06 am

    oh crap. considering the stalker issues you have been forced to deal with i hope my comment didn’t come off as batshit crazy. i know you weren’t talking TO me, but the synchronicity hit me so i just wanted you to know that you make a difference in so many ways.
    done rambling now!

  153. Amy M
    March 28th, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    That’s a great story! I would love to work out there! Your posts are always so beautiful and well detailed. Every time I read them the whole story is playing my head I love it!

  154. angela
    March 28th, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    Wow. Just, wow.

    I was going to forward this to a dear friend who would love to read it, but then remembered she’d pregnant and due this week (I know, how could I forget?) and decided to save it for another time when she’s not expecting to deliver her OWN baby in a matter of days.

  155. Pat D.
    March 28th, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    That’s the wonder of Nature– she manages to keep a balance in the birth and death columns. Great story, Shreve, thanks for sharing it. I’ve read about “jacketing” an orphan stock animal to imprint it on another mother, but didn’t know if it was still done. Fascinating!

  156. Keri
    March 28th, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

    I’m having a terrible day today, so naturally I came to the most calming website I know. For the few minutes it took me to read this beautiful story, I forgot about everything that has gone wrong so far today, and I nearly cried at the end – which I partially blame on the fact that I’m due to give birth any day now myself. Thank you for writing with such vivid imagery and detail. My day has continued to be rotten, but for those few minutes, I was on the farm, and those were the best few minutes of my day.

  157. carol
    March 28th, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

    Geez….and I was all proud of myself for remembering to give the dog his heartworm pill!

  158. Cyndy
    March 28th, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    Love this. Really great life story. Beautiful.

  159. Renee
    March 28th, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

    I have asked this before and its so off topic of your awesome stories but im dying to know what kinda boots are those you have ?!! i love em, i wear ariat but they wear out pretty fast, the ones u have on in the pic look sturdy, what kind are they

  160. Megan in Calgary
    March 30th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Oh my…here I am all choked up with tears threatening to spill as I sit here at work at my desk…what a wonderful outcome, I’m so happy those two are together.

  161. Janine
    March 30th, 2011 @ 11:10 am

    You continue to amaze me!

  162. Elisabeth
    March 30th, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    How about some pictures of the New Pair? That would be lovely to see the calf grow up now that we know how he started.

  163. Amy Lawson
    March 31st, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write that story. I’m crying happy and sad tears at the same time and just really needed to hear that today.

  164. Bumblebee
    April 1st, 2011 @ 10:23 am

    Awwww what a very sad and precious story! I also cried while reading it. I felt so sorry for the poor cow that died… :( and also for the poor mama cow without her baby. (Sniff) but so glad the story had such a happy ending. Thank you SO much for sharing this with us Shreve!! Bless you and Mike, the vet and those sweet helpful neighbors too!!!! HUGS to all!

  165. Christy in Oregon
    April 2nd, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

    Gripping story. Made me so happy.

  166. Mary in NJ
    April 4th, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    what an informative, intriguing, and wonderfully heartwarming story! that absolutely brightened my afternoon :) thank you~

  167. Joie
    April 7th, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    This was an incredible story. Just incredible. Thanks so much for sharing.

  168. Dave 23
    April 20th, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

    This is an amazing and very moving story.. Thank you for sharing.

  169. Sara
    April 28th, 2011 @ 9:38 am

    This is beautiful. Sometimes things work out just right.

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