Country Living Series

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Totally unexpected surprise

Yesterday morning around 6:30 am -- just when it was getting light enough to see outside -- I suddenly heard the cattle bellowing in excitement. Looking out the window, I saw them galloping up to the bull pen and milling about. I grabbed a coat and scarf -- it was 22F outside -- and what did I see?


A calf! Shadow, who's been our bull Samson's pen mate since late December, had borne a calf!


This was totally and completely unexpected. Shadow, you may recall, lost a calf two years ago. It was born dead and was the first calf we'd ever lost in 15 years of owning cattle. Poor Shadow was understandably upset, and as the years went by it seemed she was barren as well. She had plenty of exposure to the bull, but never again became pregnant (or so we thought).

We received some suggestions we should just put Shadow in the freezer since she wasn't able to have a calf. We're not particularly sentimental about (most of) our cows, and we will more readily butcher an ornery animal, but Shadow's disposition is sweet and we saw no need to get rid of her without a good excuse.

Besides, even if she couldn't bear calves, she did have a use -- she could keep the bull company during times we didn't want other cows bred. That's why she's been Samson's pen mate for the last few months.

As for how we didn't know she was pregnant... well, some cows, like some women, carry a pregnancy with great subtlety. So it was with Shadow. Never in the past nine months did she look even remotely pregnant. So I repeat, this calf was a complete surprise.

A glimpse of a tiny scrotum -- we have a little boy.



By the time I saw him, the baby was on his feet and nursing strongly. Shadow has shown great attention and promises to be a good mama.


All the other ladies lined up to admire the new arrival.


Samson, of course, thought they were lining up to admire him, and he pawed and pranced around like the stud he is.



I gave Shadow a little bit of food right where she was, so she wouldn't be conflicted between being hungry vs. staying with her baby.


But our priority was to get her and the baby out of the bull pen.


Not because Samson was likely to be aggressive to the calf -- Dexter bulls are pretty good about respecting calves...



...but because the bull pen, like the feed lot, has parts that are literally knee-deep in sticky black mud and we couldn't risk the baby getting mired.



Nor could we turn Shadow out with the rest of the herd. Again it's not because anyone would hurt the baby, but there's mud everywhere.

After some discussion, we decided to confine Shadow and the baby in the hay barn for the time being, at least until we can castrate the baby. Here they would have unlimited food and complete protection from the weather. Although it was chilly this morning, thankfully we're having mild weather with temps in the 40s.


Even in cold weather, calves do fine as long as they have shelter, hay bedding, and a belly full of warm milk.

So after giving Shadow most of the day to recuperate and get used to having a baby...






...we got her and the calf out of the bull pen and shooed another cow in to keep Samson company. It was too dark to take photos by the time we got everyone bedded down, but suffice it to say we blocked Shadow and baby in the barn with cattle panels (which also locked poor little Lucy out, the greedy thing) and filled a tub of water for mama.

I've been smiling the whole day over our new addition. Cows are happiest with calves, and it pleases me that Shadow has one at last.

Now... what shall we name the baby?

54 comments:

  1. How cute! He looks just like his momma...what about a variation on Shadow, like Shade? Or Smokey? Perhaps there's an answer in the origin of Dexter cattle.

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  2. What a fun surprise!
    How about Theodore? It means God's gift. Plus, who could resist calling a sweet little calf Teddy?!
    No matter the name choice what a wonderful unexpected blessing!

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  3. What a beautiful little bull. And what a proud mamma Shadow is. Our Dexter heifers should be calving in the spring. They have been with our bull since last June. I can't wait to see our beautiful little calves. You definitely helped inspire us to buy Dexters. They are an awesome breed.

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  4. Nice to get the new calf, but all my rancher friends would tell you the cow should have went to either the sale barn or the freezer when she had the dead calf. :)

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  5. How about Gotcha !!!!

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  6. How wonderful is that!? What about Jolt for a name?

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  7. What a wonderful good morning surprise. I think I would call his "Guesswhat" .

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  8. Since the calf is a boy & will eventually end up in the freezer (since you plan to castrate him, he isn't a replacement bull), I would vote for either "Smokey" or "Surprise", both of which could be "meat" names.

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  9. Eureka!

    - It means "I found it!" in ancient Greek.

    Southern Gal

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  10. I like "Jolt". cool name for a great surprise...

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  11. How about "Surprise" in a foreign language? What is the country of origin of his breed?

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  12. Replies
    1. I laughed at this name. I was gonna vote for Surprise until
      I saw what you wrote: Sir Prize. Good name!

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    2. Why, thank you. I kind of feel like I owe Patrice a name, since I accidentally stole "Matilda" for my Jersey heifer. :D

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  13. Holy Cow!! Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Surprise sounds good to me, but I've been told that I shouldn't be allowed to name a dog...

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  14. How about Hercules sort of goes with Sampson both strong males!!

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  15. "Peekaboo" seems appropriate.

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  16. Winters Surprise is my suggestion and just Winter for short.

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  17. How about naming him, Porter, for Porter House? Or T-Bone?

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  18. Had a calf as a teen, black angus.....named him ......Blackie......pretty sure later on we called him T-Bone.....thats the extent of my naming creativity..... the calf looks like a Shadson

    TT

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  19. GHOST. Since nobody knew he was there.

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  20. Coming from Shadows perspective in relation to the other cows with calves, I would call him Neener neener. Neener for short.

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  21. What a handsome little guy! I think Sir Prize is a pretty clever name.

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  22. What a lovely story and lovely surprise!

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  23. Shadow has a ray of "Sunshine" in her life. I do like Sir Prize though.

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  24. I like ninja because he was so sneaky you did not even know he was coming!

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  25. Ricky of course! Then you'll have Lucy and Ricky both!

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  26. RADAR ! He and she have both been using it these past nine months !

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  27. I really like Sir Prize too!

    Southern Gal

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  28. An additional vote for Sir Prize

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  29. Love these name suggestions!
    Last month our little red heifer, the first born on our farm, had a premature calf. We knew something was going on because as we were walking up the driveway in deep snow we could hear the ruckus. A lot of it was her, trying to revive her little calf. Like you, we don't know what happened (calf was about 7 months gestation) and are full of theories and questions. Also like you, we are not putting her in the freezer. She is separated from the bull for now and we'll try to hold off breeding til the summer. We are having a cow butchered today that has not ever been pregnant that we know of (and we did have the vet check last week just in case). She is about 3 years old, maybe nearly 4. We have so much to learn about catte....but I am so hoping for a happy day in the future when our red heifer has a live birth.
    Brenda

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  30. Mud and cows always together.

    Huggs..

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  31. Call him Muddy.

    Huggs..

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  32. "Bruce" is my vote. He is black and stealthy like Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. Beautiful little guy. Rebekah

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  33. Sir Prize is a great name. I got a kick out of the picture of your thermometer. It's minus 4 here in northern Michigan right now.

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  34. How sweet that the Lord Yahweh blessed her! I think Sampson looks proud.

    How about calling him Surprise ?

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  35. ChaChing! With cattle prices this makes for a bit more Sir Prize money!

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  36. Shadowfax, she had a copy of herself...

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  37. You should name him Curveball. Shadow really threw you a curveball when he was born. Congrats on the new calf and finding out Shadow is not barren.

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  38. I think you should name him Ninja, as he was able to sneak his way into your herd.

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