Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In which my parents and I act as lactation consultants to a cow.

Do you remember this post, where I was feeling some camaraderie with a big mama cow?

I've been at it again, but a little more hands-on this time.

I don't know how familiar you are with what a nursing mama cow's undercarriage is supposed to look like, and really, I'm no expert myself, but anyone that has ever nursed a baby (and many that haven't) would have to know this just can't be good:
Let's all say together: OUCH.

But more problematic than the mama's mams was the serious issue of the baby's nourishment.  

This mama birthed a sweet-faced little calf on Saturday or early Sunday, and the little fella just hasn't been getting enough to eat.  

So I became my daddy's ranch-hand side-kick today, to help rescue a calf!

After one more re-con mission to see how baby was doing, we decided, yes, it was time to resort to a bottle and formula.  Mama cow was sticking pretty close during this visit.  It was painful to watch her run across the pasture to check on her baby when we got too close for her comfort.

An hour or two later, joined by my mom, we headed back to the calf's cozy grass nest.  Mama cow trotted along behind us at a pretty good pace, but we got to a gate and closed it behind us before she got too close.  Once she realized she was separated from her baby she started putting up a pretty good fuss.

Meanwhile, we got to the calf and started trying to get him to take the bottle.  
This part was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be.  The calf either didn't know how to suck, or didn't have the strength.  

The above pose didn't last long.  Pretty quick Dad and I switched places so I was straddling the calf and he and mom were working together to hold his head and the bottle and get some milk into him so he'd start to suck.  Obviously mom had to put the camera down for that to work.  

Finally, after some work on the bottle nipple, it was like a little bovine lightbulb went off and baby started really taking down some milk.

It was about that time that dad noticed some movement off to his right, and we all looked up to see.... Mama Cow.

Uh oh.

Dad had Mom move around to another side of the atv, and I was ready to jump in, and he was ready to... run.  Mama cow circled around us about three times, not too upset, but not too happy either.
It was like she knew we weren't hurting her baby, and kind of suspected we were helping, but she still didn't like it.  (We later found the place in the fence where she had most likely pushed her way through to get to her calf.)  

Finally, she got close enough and Dad felt good enough about how much the calf had taken down that we let mama and baby reunite.  

We sat and watched as a much perkier, more energized calf tried to nurse on his poor mama's gigantic ... you-knows.  

The hope is we can supplement the calf with enough to get him stronger and bigger, while he keeps nursing on mom, giving her some relief and eventually balancing out her supply with his demand. 

It's an experience I've never had before, and I am loving every bit of it!


Kristin said...

That is too awesome! Wow! What a sweet sweet little baby. I hope he gets strong soon!

Cindy said...

I loved this! I hope baby continues to grow stronger and bigger and to help his poor mom out!