Early this morning – the moon was setting over the lake – frost on the ground – ice – sleet predicted. We have to be weather “addicts” – our being aware of bad weather to come allows us to prepare and take care of the cattle depending on us. So we knew we were in for some really cold – wet weather – the absolute worst combination for the cows and their babies. We can’t do anything about the weather but we can adjust their diet – increasing their hay and protein supplement in front of and during the bad weather. As we are putting out the supplement – we look at every cow and calf to see if there are any that need special attention during this winter blast. So yesterday we noted one older cow that did not seem to be producing adequate milk for her little one. We penned her and the baby – brought them to the barn for extra rations and cover for the night.
It was about 2:00 in the afternoon when our feeding rounds put us in the pasture “behind the house”. We noted a little Brangus calf that stayed around the hay while all the other cows and calves came to the cubes. We drove over and the calf struggled to get its back legs under it. It looked like it might have had an injury to his left hind leg – was hurting – “laid up” – did not go to Momma for his nutrition and had gotten weaker. Even in a weakened state – a calf can go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds flat. But this calf was struggling and Momma was not coming to his aid. With these Brangus cattle – you just have to look in the direction of a cow’s baby and they will let you know that you are on very thin ice if you get any closer. Brangus cattle are big on boundaries!! But if a calf gets weak and goes too long without getting up to nurse – the cow will abandon the calf. You’ve heard the old saying – survival of the fittest. So we caught the calf and took him to the barn. We gave him a warm bottle with some electrolytes – banamine for the pain – vitamins with iron. We have a small stall completely enclosed and covered under our barn just for calves that need extra attention.
We don’t name our cattle unless they develop some very specific – distinguishable characteristic that calls them to our attention – that makes them stand out and be noticed. Well – meet Pepper. When we went to the barn this morning – this calf had a complete turn-around in health – demeanor – attitude. Pepper was hot (hence his name) – pawing the ground and charging us with all his little being. He was letting us know he was back from his near death experience and ready to be the Brangus bull he was intended to be. God’s gracious miracles never cease to amaze me.
He fought us over the bottle – he head butted us – he bucked and kicked. We loved every minute of seeing his good health. Tonight I went back to feed Pepper. Same ornery little spirit – but I waited in the corner with the warm bottle. He really wanted that warm milk – he would lick his lips – back up and paw the dirt – he had one of those “bad boy” reputations to protect.
Finally – he walked calmly over to me – looked up with those big eyes and took the bottle. He was safe – reputation in tact – he had done everything on his terms!!