It is time for June Bug and Neal Calf-frey to be weaned. They are five months old, strong and vigorous. When they are both butting at Moxie’s udder they can lift her off her feet.
Last week I alerted Melissa at the dairy forty minutes away and she promised to let me know when they had a newborn bull calf. Yesterday the call came.
The first step in weaning is put halters on the calves. I often used to leave halters on my animals, but no more. In October I had been visiting Lucy’s school in New Hampshire when I received a call from my dear friend Alison, who was covering my barn chores. Did I mean for my heifer Dorrie to be dragging a three-foot iron pipe?
It turned out that Dorrie’s halter had in some crazy fashion become tangled in the short end of an iron pipe that years ago I had sunk in the ground near the paddock gate as a doorstop. In her panic, Dorrie had heaved the pipe right out of the ground and was now trailing it from her head. Alison’s husband, Tom, took a photo.
Alison and Tom were able to bring all the animals in and disentangle Dorrie from the pipe, but since then, I do not leave halters on my cattle.
Now I was not looking forward to putting halters on the five-month calves. Junie and Neal are not at all hand-tame. They know my routine and obediently go in and out of the barn to their stall, but they have never been handled. I knew it would be a rodeo, and it was. However, I stayed calm and was only mildly trampled and banged in their plunging away from me around the small stall.
Junie is now wearing a calf halter let out to its last hole and Neal is wearing a yearling halter run up as far as it can go. However they will only wear them a few days. My next task will be to put weaning rings on their noses, but after getting the halters on, I thought we’d all had enough excitement for one morning.
In the afternoon I volunteered to work with a boy who was in disciplinary straits in the school program. This boy (let’s call him Roger) fits my favorite profile of a problem child: a smart, unhappy trouble-maker with a heart of gold. Roger is one of my strongest history students and very dear and funny, but he’s had some tough knocks in life and when his time is unstructured he just… can’t… resist… stirring up chaos.
So I brought him down to the farm and we mucked the barn companionably. Then we rode over to the dairy and picked up my new day-old bull calf. I will be raising this calf for my friends D and Allen, and D’s four-year-old granddaughter had already chosen the name: “Jason Aldean,” apparently a country singer whose song is her favorite on the truck radio.
Roger was delighted with Jason Aldean.
Moxie, who had been lying in her stall shavings chewing her cud, agreed to get up and go into her stanchion for a grain snack while we introduced Jason Aldean to her udder. Though never having seen a teat, Jason Aldean was a quick study.
Roger was happy to supervise the wobbly, staggering baby and help him latch on. “He is so smart! Look at his little tail wag!”
I tied a calf jacket on Jason Aldean, and last night at 9 PM I drove down to the farm to supervise another feed to keep him warm through the 15° F night.
This morning before work I hope to tackle the weaning rings.