(A totally different pair on a healthy pasture on a summer morning.)
For several winters Chas and I fed hay, usually twice a day, to my father’s cows in the barn behind our house. I enjoyed feeding them, and it goes without saying that the cows enjoyed being fed. Last year my dad sold that barn and pasture, and some of those cows, to a new owner, who added quite a few more cows to the pasture. He doesn’t need us to feed them in the winter. Well, he thinks he doesn’t need us to feed them; I think he does. He definitely needs someone to feed them more than he is feeding them.
More cows on a pasture means shorter grass. Shorter grass means less feed, and more mooing - a lot more mooing, especially in the middle of the night. More mooing means less sleep for Laurie, which means a sharp uptick in cranky behavior.
This is a lose-lose proposition.
The other night one particular cow lowed all night long, every 5-10 seconds. Correction: she took a break between 3:00am and 3:45am, possibly to go gargle as I’m sure her throat was very sore from excessive mooing. While I was annoyed, I chalked it up to just another hungry cow song, which we have all gotten quite used to this winter. I pride myself on the ability to identify and interpret moos (we all have our gifts), and this moo sounded more like the “Bring Out The Snacks!” moo and not the “Where Is My Calf?!” moo.
I was wrong. One look out the kitchen window the next morning and I saw my error: Mama Cow actually was separated from her calf. She ran frantically up and down the fence line outside of the barn, bellowing. I could also see the calf, who was eating hay at the partitioned manger that only the small calves can access. More accurately, the previous evening the calf had been eating hay . . . until she got stuck. Somehow this heifer, while dining, had threaded her head through two fences and a square hole just big enough for her skull. And there she stood, all night, unable to back out or lie down, poor baby. If she had slipped and fallen she might have strangled.
I tried to extricate her but the angle of her body was all wrong. She was afraid of me and pulled against her own head trying to get away from me, but she relaxed after I let her suck on my fingers for a minute (a trick I learned as a child growing up on the dairy). I petted her for a minute to calm her, then left her to get my husband. With Chas at the front end and me at the back end, we freed her. Chas was able to turn the calf’s head once I better aligned her body with her neck. Once free the maybe 300-pound calf ran to the water trough for a drink, then out of the barn to join Mama Cow.
That should have been the end of it, but no. Mama Cow is either stupid or blind because, incredibly, she ran the other way, past her bewildered calf and back to the barn to do some more mooing.
What the . . . ?
Sigh. Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you?
Mama Cow glared at me from the other side of the fence, looking determined and crabby. I clambered over the fence and shooed her away, out of the barn, out toward her waiting calf. It took four tries to herd her to the calf to reunite them. Mama Cow is not the sharpest pitchfork in the barn.
I need to work on my moo identification and Mama Cow needs a nanny.