My heifer Dorrie is due next Wednesday, in five days, but from the look of her udder and vulva it could be any day now. She is at that point in the pregnancy where she is enormous and uncomfortable and isn’t eating with her usual gusto (no room at the inn). I watch her carefully.
This morning it is -2° F and I am presented with a problem. I do not want risk Dorrie calving outside in the snow, surrounded by a jostling herd of boys. However I can’t keep her in unless I also keep Moxie in.
Dorrie is not like her mother, my perfect cow, Katika. Katika was confident and independent. She had grown up in changing situations, even alongside a naughty donkey, and she took things in stride. When adolescent bulls challenged her authority, she put her head low, flexed her neck, and threw them aside. For years I felt Katika was my partner in running the farm. She brought the herd in the moment I called. If I needed a bull pushed out of the barn, I could count on Katika to do it. She was a Boss Cow, and as we aged together, she was my alter ego.
Her daughter, Dorrie, is tall and black and looks very like Katika, but has none of her mother’s confidence and calm. Dorrie does not have that reliable, rock-like steadiness. She is the biggest animal in the barn but she is deferential to all but the youngest calves. Most tellingly, she cannot be alone.
If I let the other cattle out of the barn before opening her gate, Dorrie will consider jumping it. (It is four feet high, she could never clear it — but she might smash it.) Her anxiety is overwhelming.
So when I decide to keep Dorrie indoors, I will have to keep Moxie in, also. The six steers and bull will go out. The cows will stay in. This change will upset everyone for hours, maybe days, and there will be bellowing and roaring on both sides, from the boys and from Dorrie, protesting. Then I will have to figure out how I will manage the early days with the calf. Will Moxie not be able to go outside for the next two weeks (when her own calf is due)?
It is all tedious to contemplate and I grow irritated with Dorrie. However I always come back to the truth that I, too, look very much like my mother but don’t have her confidence. I try to be patient.