☆ April 23, 2015
Look at this bull! Sir Baby is now six years old and weighs over a ton. I’d guess he’s about 2200 pounds. His hooves are the size of salad plates. He stepped on my foot once, accidentally, and luckily the ground was soft and my foot sank into the earth and I was left with just a bruise. The hard part was getting him to move off my foot, because he was expecting a scratch between his shoulder blades.
Tinkerbell is a miracle baby – though she’s not a baby anymore, despite her tiny size. She’s nearly a year old and was born unexpectedly on the mountain last summer. Back in 2011, one beautiful young cow contracted a disease called lumpy jaw. A bacteria enters the jaw bone and causes the bone to grow, which severely deforms the jaw of the cow and makes it hard for her to chew. There’s no cure. The options are to sell the cow (which I was totally against, as she would be considered ‘garbage’ and treated even worse than other cows that enter The System), shoot the cow, or keep the cow and help her as much as possible (good grass, supplements in the winter, etc). We chose option 3. Though she became a very skinny cow, too thin to ever have calves, she was perky and an active part of the herd (sick and injured cows are “droopy” and will separate themselves from the rest of the herd).
Fast-forward to last October – this skinny, lumpy jaw cow came off the mountain with a baby! We couldn’t believe it – she didn’t even look pregnant when we trailed up, and we had missed all evidence of this event each time we went up to check on the cows (with 1000 acre leases, we never see every cow on these day trips). The baby was lively, frolicking and bucking, but miniscule, and already eating grass, as her mother wasn’t producing milk. I tried to get the calf to nurse on Daisy, but the calf had already been conditioned out of the instinct to nurse – she completely ignored Daisy’s udder and, instead, went for Daisy’s special high-protein pellets. So, we put the cow and her calf in the barn when we trailed the rest of the herd to fall pasture, and planned to spend the fall and winter giving them extra-special treatment and hopefully fattening both of them up.
November began with highs in the 60s, then, halfway through the month, the temperature suddenly plummeted to -21°F. It fell to -28°F the next night. And the next morning, we found mama had died in the night. She didn’t have enough body fat to keep her alive in that extreme cold, even in the barn with a sleeping bag tied on like a horse blanket and unlimited food. It was too cold, too fast. Her calf (who looks so much like she did, before the disease set in, with a long and delicate face) made it through the cold snap, as did the rest of the herd. I named the calf Tinkerbell, and I moved Sir Baby into the barn (he fights too much with the other bulls for his own good, which is why his left ear is deformed).
Tinkerbell and Sir Baby immediately became BFFs. They sleep side by side. Sir Baby grooms Tinkerbell throughout the day, licking her neck and back just like a mama cow would. He’s taught her not to fear people, and when I climb onto his back and brush his massive neck, she nibbles the toe of my boot. Tinkerbell gets a daily bucket of Daisy’s special pellets, and she’s actually grown quite a few inches in all directions. They are the biggest and the littlest members of the Farmily, an odd couple and unlikely friendship, a happy consequence of a sad story.