Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Calf's First Day, Continued

Read part one here.

And then… we heard loud mooing. This time, someone was complaining!

Joel got up and looked out the door. The calf was wandering around outside with Buttercup following close behind. Norway was watching from his side.

Joel turned around and told me they seemed fine but he wanted to keep watching to make sure. When he turned back around:

What!! How did he get there?!?

What’s going on?

Norway is with the calf. Norway is on this side!


I’m thinking, ‘I hope he broke the fence, I hope he broke the fence, I hope he broke a weak spot in the fence.’ The last thing I wanted was a jumping bull. And a bull that could jump the fences that we have as our entire perimeter!

Joel went out to stand with the cows and check the fences. Sure enough – a tuft of hair on the top of one of the fences. When there wasn’t snow, he tried to jump this same spot in the fence and couldn’t. He epically failed. So I can have some comfort that it is the ½ foot of built up and compacted snow and ice that just barely let him clear this fence… But still!

I frantically searched about leaving a bull with the calf. I had planned to do this a little later and maybe put them all together on Monday. I found that many others who run bulls with their cows all year long allow them to be with the newborn calves. They find the bulls very gentle and tolerant of the calves and said they would NEVER hurt a calf. That was reassuring. So we waited and watched.

Norway was nudging the calf around. Buttercup was getting possessive over the calf, and seemed very upset that her perfect stroll out in the countryside had been ruined by this nosy fellow. They all did well for a little while. And then naughty Norway air mounted the calf. He was kicked out!

Norway has had serious spring fever issues. We’ll talk about that later (oh joy…).

Our hope that they would all live happily together from this point forward and that it would be an easy transition was ruined.

We decided that if the snow made it so that he could jump these fences, we needed to add the electric to the top of the perimeter. Joel worked hard hammering grounding rods in the semi-frozen ground. He hit ledge the first time and had to relocate them. He attached insulators to the posts, and ran the poly rope. This took until 8pm. And guess where I was: inside. Remember how I needed that rest? I was starting to get sick and was chilled. Joel was awesome as usual.

So about 8pm, we realized it was going to rain… And Norway’s current spot did not have a shelter. Time to get creative. We thought about moving the shelter – frozen to the ground, we thought about building another one really quick – ag panels frozen to the ground, we thought about stringing poly rope to separate the front area so that Norway could get to his shelter and buttercup would stay with the shed – but nothing would prevent the little guy from walking over to Norway.

Ug. So Joel screwed a few boards to the front of the shed so that Buttercup wouldn’t feel closed in and panic (she’s never been closed in anything other than a trailer), but wouldn’t be able to get out with the calf until the morning.

And in the morning? We woke up early, Joel got some t-posts in the ground, and we have a hokey fence to split this side of the pasture. Everyone is somewhat happy. I was still under the weather and I started getting a headache part way through the day. I resigned to doing more research on Norway and placing my butt in a chair to rest.

Can you tell that Norway is kind of a pain right now? So what is going to happen with Norway? Honestly, I don’t know. He’s been good the past couple months before Buttercup calved (still with lots of spring fever going on), but I think he’d do better with a beef herd. One that lives together in a field where the owner doesn’t need to collect Norway’s only herd mate for milking or grooming every day. Norway never loved us giving Buttercup loads of attention and taking her away from him, but he didn’t want us to give him attention either. He’d rather just be a bull and get food and water from the humans that leave his valued herd alone. I can respect that. He doesn’t mind us walking in his pasture, or near him; he’s congenial. He’s not aggressive or anything like that.

But the questions is how bad does he need that herd and could he just stay in this type of situation and be fine? He probably could with ingenuity. He did great when we put him in a trailer and sent him to our friend’s farm with her two cows. He grew up with a herd of Buttercup and 5+ sheep and one goat. So he also likes a change of scenery and adapts well!

(Skip the next paragraph if you don't want spring fever details.)

The next day, I was talking to my second cousin once removed’s wife (I don’t know how to say that right) who keeps a bull with their cows all the time and she doesn’t find that their bull has any issues with the calves either. She suggested that the baby probably still smelled like placenta and vaginal fluid, which is enough for a bull. And honestly, I'm thinking Norway may not have been "mounting" the calf. When I say he has "spring fever issues", I mean he mounts the air sometimes and can't help it. She suggested that we start introducing Norway and the calf with supervision. We also talked about the differences in our bulls and that Norway is not a halter trained and handled bull, but hers is. So the way our Norway relates to our being involved in his world is a little different too.

So we have some decisions to make. It has been suggested by several local people that we should share our bull instead of getting rid of him. We would love to see him shared but it will be difficult to orchestrate. We’ll see…

Because I want to remember the sweet things about Norway being here no matter what happens with him: Buttercup loves Norway. When we separated them for a few hours last week, pregnant Buttercup jumped up on the fence so that she could lick Norway on the top of the head. They cuddle together. They take turns watching each other while they sprawl out on the ground like a down cow (scares me sometimes). When Buttercup got out of the electric fence last summer, Norway stayed in it and just bellowed until we went and collected her and brought her back to him. They currently rub heads through the divider fence. And they lick each other's heads through the fence.

Mushy, gushy. They are sweet together. It's just a matter of figuring out if we want to deal with Norway. There are many bulls that are worse than Norway, and there are some that are better than Norway for our situation. So do we decide that we try to find another Dexter bull calf and raise him up ourselves to train him the way we want? Or do we stick it out?


  1. I hope that Norway is able to adapt to sharing his Buttercup with the baby. I would hate to see them separated, but also understand your concern and your longing to keep them all satisfied and happy. Buttercup might get depressed if her companion was taken away.

    1. I hope so too. The calf seems to like Norway, but is getting signals that have so far caused the calf to steer clear. Which is terrible to watch. Norway got into Buttercup's side again and kicked the calf out of the shed. The calf snuck under the fence to get away, and later after putting it back in, still stayed out of the shed while Norway herded Buttercup in. The poor calf was shivering, but Norway was herding the calf separate from Buttercup. I do hope it gets better. Norway was put back where he belongs and the calf went back in the shed with Buttercup and doesn't want to come out.




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