Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Meet Ferdinand the Bull

Yesterday morning when I went to do morning chores, I saw Amy and Matilda standing in the corral with their ears pricked toward the woods. It didn't take a lot of deduction to discern what they heard. Victoria was having her calf. (Always pay attention to the body language of your livestock.)

I arrived literally seconds after the calf dropped to the ground.

It's hard to tell amidst the gooey mess, but that's a little scrotum. We have a bull calf.

As with little Hickory, this fella arrived in a window of very nice weather. Calm, not very cold (about 35F at the time), and some sunshine. We just got finished with a bout of rainy, windy weather, so I'm grateful Victoria held off until things were better.

I left her to deal with the baby. When I checked in half an hour later, she was just starting to pass the placenta.

And the calf was already nursing. Look how identical in color he is to his mama.

Don and I had decided in advance that if Victoria (a purebred Dexter) had a bull calf (which would also be purebred Dexter), we would keep him as a breeder. We've looked at the lineage of our animals and he can be bred to everyone but his mama, of course.

We checked in about an hour later, and Victoria had dropped the placenta and was starting to eat it (a revolting but instinctive practice).

We waited another 20 minutes but she was still trying to force it down her throat, so we decided to intervene. Don armed himself with a stout stick and watched my back as I picked up the calf and moved him out of the woods into the driveway. (At this time of year, the feedlot is too muddy for calves, so we're moving mamas and calves into the driveway, which is rocky and firm, plus they have access to the barn for food and shelter.)

Once out of the woods, Victoria and the baby immediately made themselves comfortable.

This morning the little guy is much firmer on his feet.

In fact, he's at the comical stage where he's steady enough to wobble and skip around, and Victoria -- mooing anxiously, udder swaying -- has to keep up with his gambols. It's quite funny to watch.

Meanwhile I'm noodling aronnd the name Ferdinand, after a favorite children's book "The Story of Ferdinand."


  1. We named a calf Ferdinand once; Unfortunately, he turned out to be a runt. His step-father, Homer, seemed philosophical about it. (His half-brothers, Plato and Socrates, had already left for greener pastures.)

  2. Nice little guy. Where is the snow? Is that normal there? Still lots here in the UP and will be until end of April or even into May.---ken

    1. Considering we're expecting six calves before the end of February, we're beyond grateful to be having a mild winter.

      - Patrice

  3. Nice looking calf. Great that you can keep him.
    No snow here either central wa...nice for the heating bill.
    Jo from wa

  4. What a handsome little fella! Being a Dexter he has a propensity to be gentle and loving, what a combo. Good to have a bull you can handle so to speak...

  5. Awh. Babies are cute no matter what species 💙

  6. Greetings Patrice, I'd be very interested in why you chose to raise Dexters and what you look for in a particular animal. I'm assuming temperment, conformation, hardiness, ease of calving and good mothers (in cows). What else do you look for? We're starting a small Dexter herd come spring and are just getting ready to start looking at some animals. I know to look for no Chondro, PHA, and in our case, being polled. Beyond those traits, is there anything else to be looking for/at?


  7. I did the placentophagy thing after my home births (placenta was dried, ground, and put into gelatin capsules, usually by the midwife). It is not a pleasant thing to think about, but two or three capsules per day really did help smooth out the hormonal transition after childbirth for me. Fewer weepy spells, more contentment with the new baby. Placenta-eating is probably good for animals in the same way, aside from the nutrition they get from it. I'm glad you two were there to keep the cow from choking on it, though!

  8. So very love the reference to the story, Ferdinand is the quintessential bull to have on hand, sure hope the little guy lives up to his name.