Setbacks

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Stewart, pre-enlightenment

I did say, didn’t I, that one should never preen oneself too soon on having solved a problem with animals?

Last night when I brought the cows in, I noticed that the weaner (the new, poorly designed weaner) on Stewart’s nose was smeared with blood.

Figuring that little Cooper could not be keeping up with the milk supply, I had brought my milking things to chores. When I sat down with my pail and scrubbed Moxie’s udder, my white washcloth also came away stained with blood. Moreover Moxie’s two front teats were empty.

Clearly Stewart had suddenly remembered how to suck a teat into his mouth through the oversized opening in the inferior weaner, and in his nursing frenzy had slashed his mother’s teats with his teeth.

Here are some comparison pictures to illustrate. First, Stewart pacing at the barn door this morning, waiting for his mother, in the new weaner.

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Notice all the space under his muzzle? Sort of a … teat-sized space? Also you may notice that the spikes are, as reader Michelle pointed out, flatter, and after only three days one has broken off entirely.

Here is Henry in the old-style weaner, drooling for his breakfast snack of sweet feed.

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Notice the closer, snugger fit and the upward tilt of the spikes? (I should also point out that this particular weaner was worn for months last year, by my heifer Phoenix, and is still intact.)

Because I am a researcher by nature, yesterday I had emailed both Jeffers Livestock, where I have always bought my calf weaners, and the Cotran Corporation, listed on the Jeffers site as the manufacturer, to inquire about the altered design. I was curious to find out if the change was made by Cotran (as the maker) or by Jeffers (in a switch to a different supplier).

In response I had both emails and a telephone call from Cotran. Cotran has never changed their design. Though Jeffers was advertising Cotran weaners by photograph and by name, the poor weaners shipped out to me were a different brand.

I also had an email from Jeffers. They thanked me for drawing their attention to their advertising error (the Cotran name was immediately removed from their website page, though the photo of a Cotran weaner persists), and for giving them feedback on the new weaners. They also kindly offered to replace the inferior weaners with genuine ones from Cotran.

I will need them ASAP for my poor bleeding cow. Though I know everyone makes mistakes, this one was not mine — and as is often the case in such situations, it’s hard not to feel aggravated.

*     *     *

One of the pleasures of the past week has been my tiny wild visitor, the Horned Lark.

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Every day I would see him following the sheep as they ate their hay or scratching for seeds on my manure pile.

When I dragged out each new bucket-load of manure, he would flit off to light nearby in the snow, waiting for me to dump it and go.

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He was a small, cheerful addition to every grey, snowy morning.

Yesterday, dumping my first load of manure, I did not see him. When I dragged out the second load, I barely missed stepping on him. He was sitting on the manure pile, his feathers puffed out, entirely covered with fresh snow and almost invisible.

I picked him up and gently blew off the snow.

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It did not look good. His eyes were closed and his feet were clenched on themselves. I could feel his tiny breastbone like a sharp keel through his feathers.

The night before it had been almost raining at midnight and then the temperature had fallen abruptly to 10°F. I guessed that he was starving and hypothermic. I prayed I was not too late.

I carried him up the hill to the garage in my cupped hands. He revived slightly in the warmth of my body heat and opened his eyes.

About 20% of the time I’ve had luck helping injured or sick wild birds simply by putting them in the warm, dark, quiet of a covered box. I nestled the Horned Lark on some hay chaff in a wooden box in my heated workshop, and covered the box loosely with my fleece sweater. The entire operation took less than five minutes. Then I left and closed the door.

Sadly, when I checked him an hour later after finishing chores, the little lark was dead. I’ll miss his cheerful company.

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