Yesterday little Cooper nursed his fill contentedly while Moxie ate her breakfast in the stanchion and the five- and six-month-old calves had a snack of sweet feed. Then I let Moxie and the three big calves out.
Snow was churning in the jostling frenzy. It was a scrum.
In the end Moxie’s foster bull calf, Henry, and Katika’s heifer calf, Dorrie, were the ones able to latch on.
In the game of Musical Teats, Moxie’s own calf, Stewart, was the calf left standing. Stewart obviously could not remember the trick of how to nurse with the weaner on. He circled disconsolately for a minute…
… and then gave up…
… and wandered off to eat his hay like a big boy.
Moxie seemed to feel the poking from the weaner spikes a bit more than the day before, and in an uncharacteristic flash of irritability, she lowered her head to drive the sheep away from her little group.
At this point she noticed her son, Stewart, off eating hay alone, and seemed to wake up. She glanced around to see Dorrie nursing. What? Head down, Moxie drove Dorrie away also. Henry scampered after his foster mama, intent on his breakfast, but now she was exasperated. She jumped away from his questing, spiked nose, kicking at him in warning.
Ahhh. This was how the process was supposed to work! Maybe things were going to turn out differently now! Maybe all I needed to do was put a third weaner on Dorrie and the problem would be solved!
Uh, no. When I brought the cows in at evening chores, Moxie’s udder was slack and empty. Henry’s muzzle was bare — and presumably his belly was full.
I went searching in the snow for the lost weaning ring. Stewart’s weaner had similarly fallen out the day before after only five minutes, but I’d managed to get it back on. I’d never had so many problems with calf weaners, or with weaning in general. What was going on?
When I found Henry’s weaner in the snow and compared it to last year’s weaner that I’d dug out for Dorrie, I found the answer. It appears that either Cotran, the company that makes these nylon weaners, has changed the design, or Jeffers Livestock, where I have always bought them, has switched its supplier.
The new design has much smaller snubbed ends to fit in the calf’s nostrils. Moreover, they are further apart and cannot be tightened snugly without the use of pliers on the wing nut. (No wonder the weaners kept falling out!) The new design also has a larger open triangle in the center, about a half inch wider in all directions. (No wonder Henry was able to slurp a teat into his mouth right through the weaner!)
My internet cow friends have given me a number of great weaning suggestions, which I will turn to if today’s plan does not work.
This morning I’m going to try putting the tight old-style weaner on Henry, and the loose new design on Dorrie. Dorrie is only ever able to nurse when Moxie is lost in a reverie and not aware. My hope is that any weaner, even a punk one, will command Moxie’s attention and prompt her to kick Dorrie away, and that the old, tougher weaner will shut down Henry’s milk stealing.
We shall see!