Afternoon With The Calves

We’re more than halfway through with calving for this year which is a cause for celebration for us. Whoo hoo! 

From late February through April, we check the cows frequently to see if they are about to have a calf, or have had a calf. We watch the weather carefully and groan when it is to be cold or snowy, as we could lose newborn calves if a cow chooses to calf at that time and doesn’t take care of it properly. So far this year, we’ve lost one calf to illness, and one of the first-time cows has rejected her calf and we’ve been working on persuading her to take it back.  Bad mother. All of this is wearing on us, and we’re looking forward to the end of the calving season.

But sometimes we just have to stop and watch the antics of the growing calves. The first ones to come are now old enough to play with each other, and one of the most enjoyable things on the farm is watching them.

One of the more interesting things about cows is the babysitting system they use. One cow babysits all the calves, while the rest of the cows go off to graze. The babies don’t follow their mothers, but stay with the babysitter. The babysitter watches over the calves, but will not clean or nurse any but her own calf.  This system amazes us. How do they determine who is to be the babysitter that day? Why to the babies not follow their mothers? Why is one cow willing to watch over calves that don’t belong to her, which is kinda un-cow like. We see this every year, but still don’t have the answers to this fascinating cow behavior.

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This pasture has only the first time cow mothers, which makes the babysitting thing even more amazing. We don’t send our cows to school to learn this stuff, so they know only what they know from instinct.

Cows are a lot smarter than they look.