Meet Opie, my newest Jersey bull calf. Here he is yesterday in the back seat of my truck.
Normally I transport calves in dog crates in the truck bed, but as it was 10° F, I had to make different plans. I tarped the back seat, covered the tarp with an absorbent towel, and tied a lead rope to the passenger seat head rest. At the dairy I buckled a dog collar onto the calf, grunted the calf into the back seat, and snapped on the lead rope. It all worked perfectly — until the rope loosened on the drive.
The calf rode all the way home standing on wobbly legs, hanging his head between the two front seats to sniff curiously at me. I kept my left hand on the steering wheel and my right stretched backwards to steady his rump — source of possible dangerous explosives.
But all was well. After a few plaintive bawls, he stood like a champ, listening with me to love songs from World War II on the CD player.
“I’ll get by… as long as I… have you-u-u-u,” I sang along, turning to drop a quick kiss on his nose.
Here he is waiting in the lamb stall, while I mucked out the cow stall and put down fresh clean shavings.
The timing is not right, just now, for a bull calf. All calves are fragile. Winter calves are even tougher to keep alive. This calf came to me partly because the dairy knows I have experience and his chances for survival are decent.
Moreover this calf won’t be old enough to breed my cows until next January. This doesn’t work in my schedule. Not only do I not want a full-grown bull in my small barn next winter, but I will not want calves born the following October or November.
So why get him?
- I need a relief milker. Fee, Katika’s own calf, is now a robust six months old and does not need the milk. Weaning her and growing another calf on the supply makes sense.
- Beef is the easiest, cheapest thing I raise. After four or five months on milk, this calf will transition to grass in the spring and grow all summer on free eats.
I have known for some months, when I did not get a bull calf last fall, that I would have to buy a young bullock in the spring or lease a grown bull next fall to breed my cows. I have a season to think about this.
In the meantime, since it is unlikely this calf will be a Lothario to my girls, I decided not to give him the name of a movie star. Instead I looked at his red hair and cute freckles and named him Opie.
The sweetness of babies never fades.