Country Living Series

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Welcome Primo

Early this morning, around 5:30 am, I heard a commotion among the herd near the bull pen. It's the kind of commotion that denoted excitement, not fear. I wasn't entirely surprised when I walked out and saw a calf.

The baby belonged to Shadow -- who, if you remember, surprised us with her calf last year, little Ninja.

Shadow, still in the hormonally-deranged phase that happens right after giving birth, was distressed that so many others wanted to see the baby.

The baby was on his feet, but still wet -- and we weren't sure if he'd had his first critical drink of colostrum either. Shadow had not yet dropped the placenta, so I'm estimating the baby was born around 5 am.

Cows just loving having newborn calves in the herd.

But suddenly Shadow -- who, as I said, was still hormonally-deranged -- got into a rip-roaring fight with Sparky. They went back and forth, bashing heads together, and the calf got knocked off his feet. Fearing he would be trampled, I didn't waste any time -- I scooped up the calf and hauled him into the corral and closed the gates. The poor little guy stood in a daze, swaying on his feet (he wasn't too steady yet) while Shadow and Sparky continued to whale on each other on the edge of the woods.

Other animals milled around near the gate, watching the newcomer.

Meanwhile I broke up the fight between Shadow and Sparky, but Shadow took off into the woods. I knew what was coming: she would wander around for a bit, then return to where she'd last seen her calf, but not know how to find him (remember, cows aren't bred for brains).

The baby waited patiently. "Are you my mother?"

Don and Younger Daughter were still asleep during all this, of course. So when Shadow came back to where she'd given birth, looking for her baby, I tried but failed to get her into the corral with the calf (who was by then curled up in a corner, sleeping.)

Later, when Younger Daughter got up, she assumed Gate Duty on the corral while I went looking for Shadow. I found her down in the woods in a dense grove of bushes and trees, eating the placenta. It's a revolting thing to watch, but it's instinctive and even arguably healthy (blech).

The fact that she had passed the placenta was good news, so I left her alone until she finished consuming it.

Once Don got up, it was a fairly straightforward matter to get Shadow in with the calf. Took a bit of work, but we did it.

By this point it was abundantly clear the baby was a boy.

We named him Primo -- not only because he's the first calf of the season, but because he'll be "primo" eating in two years.

Shadow is a good mama, attentive and protective.

Newborn calves are unspeakably darling.

As is typical for very newborn babies, everywhere Primo went, Shadow, well, shadowed him. Dogged his every step.

This got pretty funny when Primo tried out his newborn muscles and did the happy little skippy-hops and short-burst runs of a healthy baby. Shadow trotted after him, udder swaying, mewling in concern.

This intense attention will decrease over the next week or so as Shadow's hormones adjust.

This is the first of as many as eight -- eight! -- calves we're expecting this year. Yikes.


  1. Ha. Love the name. There's gonna be good eats at the Lewis household this year!

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  2. I remember the days. I loved that time of year!

  3. I was just studying Postpartum Depression and had a sudden thought when you mentioned Shadow's hormonal rages. Have you ever seen anything you would consider long term postpartum problems akin postpartum depression in your cows?


    1. No, although some cows seems to be better mothers than others.

      - Patrice

  4. I know someone who just lost their brother on Monday. Their name was Primo, believe it or not! I told my boyfriend about this calf and asked him to tell his friend (the one who lost their brother) when he goes to the funeral later today. :)


  5. We are thinking about purchasing & raising this breed. Is there anything specific we should know about them? Hands on knowledge is better for us since you have breeding and raising this stock for sometime.
    Our concern is we have a mini ranch which is less than 15 acres, dry in the summer so they would need to be supplemented. What is best animal to land ratio for your area? It will give me an estimate on the amount of livestock we could have here as the weed removal crew(& over grown pets).

  6. Occasionally we will have a cow choke to death in the process of eating the afterbirth. That is a real distressing thing to find.