This is our newest addition, Neal “Calf-frey,” a Jersey bull calf for Moxie to raise alongside her own calf, June Bug. I always name my bulls after movie stars but this year I couldn’t resist punning on the name of the brilliant and charming con-man hero, Neal Caffrey, in Lucy’s new favorite TV show, White Collar.
Why another calf, you ask? While nursing calves last year lengthened Moxie’s tiny teats, the back ones are still too short to get my fingers around. (Cows these days are bred to have teats to suit milking machines, not hands — or calves.) To keep her safe from mastitis and comfortably emptied out, I need a second milker.
Several days before Moxie gave birth, I’d put in a call to the dairy 45 minutes away, to see if they had any calves. Jersey bull calves can be a problem for dairies. They are small-boned and dainty and as steers don’t gain weight quickly like meat breeds such as Herefords or even the bigger dairy calves, like Holsteins. Meanwhile, left intact, Jerseys are one of the more dangerous dairy bulls around. (Perhaps it’s Little Man Syndrome.) Thus Jersey bull calves are typically picked up by a meat truck at a few days old, destined to be dog food. I buy them for $20 (a recent jump from $10) and raise them for a year to fifteen months. They breed my cows and then, when they are beginning to be dangerous, go to slaughter. Their lives are still short but they are part of a herd on grass in the sunshine, and happy.
Little Neal is only 36 hours younger than June Bug but as a day-old calf he was smaller and much more tottery and uncertain. The slightest disturbance made him collapse flat on the floor in a tangle of legs.
He is also the first calf ever that I could not get to recognize a teat as a milk source — I actually had to drive home, find a calf baby bottle, milk Moxie into it, and stuff the red rubber nipple into his mouth. Only after he was in a complete sucking frenzy could I redirect him to the Real Deal.
Moxie does not love foster calves; she tolerates them. Still, I could almost feel her sigh with relief as I got Neal working on those swollen back teats.
Within a day, with supervision (both calves were easily confused and searching for teats around her elbows), June Bug and Neal could nurse at the same time.
Here is the little family out on grass at 6 AM on the 4th of July.
Calves have so much fun playing together. I often find myself standing still, wasting time, just watching and smiling.