Friday, July 31, 2009

Playin' Farmer Again

So the other day I was going to pop on here and tell you another funny farm story that involves me showing up at the farm, being the only one there, getting scared out of my wits when a strange man said "Excuse me?" while I was bent over collecting eggs in the barn, and being asked questions about the "new 40 acres going organic" by the stranger, who turned out to be an organic fertilizer dude.

Not wanting to sound like the complete dope I am, I managed to furrow my brow and nod as he talked, and say things like, "Well I should do some checking to be sure, I'll be right back" instead of what I was really thinking: "
We're turning 40 more acres over to organic? Well I'll be darned."

Mostly I was just glad to find out that the big-*ss truck he was driving - and no lie, my van looked like a happy meal toy parked next to his spreader - was going to spread organic fertilizer and not
organic chicken sh*t.

(Note to self: Never, ever forget camera when heading to the farm.)

But I missed my window for humor when the very next day things once again became dire on the farm. The
real farmers have again fled the coop and left us in charge of the farm for a few days. Once again, the instructions started out fairly mundance - collect eggs, make sure water tanks are full, let chickens out, close chickens in, yadda yadda.

But then the more serious points: 3 mama cows are still pregnant - #31, #T14, and "one of the tagless Murray Greys, the bigger one" (picture me trying to find THAT cow in the field) - check on them at least twice a day to see if they're in labor. If they have trouble,
you know what to do.

And then... there's a calf that needs to be bottle-fed.

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Usually when a calf needs to be bottle-fed it's because the mama won't let him nurse. This one, however, is different - HE won't nurse. Won't have any of it. The mama cow tries and tries to get him to nurse - she licks him, sucks on his ears, nudges him. He won't do it. Because she was such a good mama, my sister didn't even realize at first he wasn't nursing. Eventually they noticed he wasn't gaining weight and realized what was going on.

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But here's the thing.... he isn't fond of the bottle, either.

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It took him several days to start drinking from the bottle. Then he steadily increased the amount he'd drink, culminating in one or 1-1/2 bottles in the morning and again at night.

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Until today. Today I found him lethargic and lying down. It took me quite a while to get him up, and longer to get him to suck on the bottle. After about 45 minutes of trying, I'd finally gotten him to drink 1/4 of a bottle. I'd pry his mouth open with my left hand, shove the bottle in with my right, then massage his jaw or clamp his mouth shut on it, trying to encourage him to suck. Every once in a while he'd humor me and take a few swallows.

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But most of the time he'd do this.

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Something's wrong with this little guy. Something's very very wrong.

I've gone to the farm five times today, each time spending nearly an hour trying to get him to drink. Sometimes he'd be standing when I got there. More often, though, he'd be lying down, barely moving. Once, I tried to lift his head and it rested heavily in my hands - he wouldn't even hold it up. After hours of trying, he never finished even one bottle.

But after another visit at 10pm, he's still alive. He took a few more sucks and then turned away and refused any more attempts. He even seemed to get a little pissed. Which is fine.

Being pissed is a sure sign of life.


Stephanie said...

I'm sorry!
It must be a sad and frustrating thing!

Best of luck to you and your little guy... I hope it is resolved, soon.

Heart Rockin Mama said...

Not so sure I want a farm that much after all.
Sweet little guy :-(
Good luck. I hope everything turns out ok.

Pi said...

Maybe hes lactose intolerant?
Well, I hope things work out...
not fun when a child refuses to grow...

Deborah said...

Maybe there is something in the stars or the weather. We had a couple of premie baby goats last week. Although their mama rejected them, they love the bottle, so they seem to be thriving. Hope this little guy figures out what he needs to do!

BTW, you haven't made a guess on the weight of our tiny doeling. There's three bars of goat milk soap for the person who gets the closest. Deadline is midnight tonight at

Ren said...

I hope all is well....I need to come learn with you. How cool.

Jen said...

Hey Laura!

It would really be annoying for me if I was trying too feed the calf and he didn't drink also!

I think I would be the one too get p*ssed! Good Luck1


Madeline Rains said...

: ( How sad. I hope things have gotten better.

I can not believe that you wear flip flops in a barn. : ) I thought I was a city girl at our farm. I wear my clogs.

GreenRanchingMom said...

Sometimes calves just don't want to drink. We have one right now that won't drink from the bottle. She will nurse the cow a little bit, so I tube feed her at least once a day, or maybe twice if she doesn't look that great.

Our calf is drinking water from a bucket & nibbling on some grain. So, we sprinkle a little dry milk replacer on the feed, and I try to offer her some milk from a bucket too.

I think the most important thing to do is tube them to get their energy up & then keep working with the bottle like you have been.

Keep up the great work!!

Dharmamama said...

I read about this on your posts on facebook; I think something was congenitally wrong with the little guy, and he knew that, and knew he was going to die from it. Something internal, ya know? I don't think it was the not eating that made him die, in other words; he would have died anyway.

That's my complete city-girl, non-farmer thought, anyway.

Hard to go through, either way, I guess. I'm glad he had you.