Sun & Cud

photo taken October 2009

Part of the reason I don’t write much on this blog is that I cannot compose on the computer.  I wrote my entire book (both of them, actually) with pen and paper.  I often write things longhand, things I want to share on this site, but simply never get around to transcribing them into the computer.  It’s taken me almost a solid week to transcribe the following answers to your questions, (which I wrote whilst lying against Daisy’s massive, warm back on the one sunny day we had early in the week, after the second snow of the season had melted and before the third had dumped several inches).  But, better late than never, right?

Daisy (who is a Brown Swiss/ Jersey mix) was bred (pregnant) when I bought her (to a Holstein bull) and is due at the end of December.  Sad, sad days are upon us, for next week I must wean Baby and stop milking – this gives Daisy a rest period before she calves so she can focus on the baby inside her.

{Side note: One person asked if, though the baby bull calf has seven names, one of them was most prominent.  Unfortunately, no.  Mike and I cycle through all of them at random, and most of the time, I just call him Baby.  Which is now what he answers to, and he trots over when I call out “Baby.”  My soon-to-be 2,000-pound Baby….}

To make the full-on weaning less traumatic, I’ve been separating Daisy and Baby at night for the past few months – side by side in adjoining sections of the corrals, with just a simple pole fence between them so they can see, smell, communicate, and even touch eachother, but Baby cannot suckle.

When it comes time to wean, I will give Daisy full run of the pasture and most of the corrals, and put Baby in with Houdini, Mike’s 28-year-old horse (and the horse that peed on me, if you’ve read my book), who is in another section of the corrals getting special treatment (extra food, better shelter, etc).  Daisy and Baby will still have through-the-pole-fence contact, and Baby and Houdini will get in some quality male-bonding.  (These animals all get along so please don’t bother sending worried messages my way.)

The calf, Baby, is huge; everyone who sees him proclaims he’s the biggest calf in the history of Wyoming.  It’s partly because he’s awesome, but mostly because of Daisy.  He is a bull calf, not a steer calf (steer = castrated male), and every time I write or twitter about him, I get emails with some variation of: “I know someone who was gored by a bull/ Bulls are dangerous/ You’re going to get hurt.”

These remind me of all the emails I got two years ago stating: “that coyote is going to kill your cat and eat your face off in the night.”  (That is a direct quote, by the way.)  Charlie hasn’t eaten my face off because a) I never forget he’s a coyote, and b) I spend a ton (TON!) of time working with him.  I never forget Daisy is a 1,200-pound animal, for that matter.  For as sweet as she is, she could give me a black eye with her tail while swatting at a fly if I didn’t watch myself.  She’s angelic but she could break my bones.  And the same goes with the bull.

Back to ze questions, switching to Q&A format because I am out of segues!

Why did you keep Baby a bull instead of raising him for food? There are two reasons, one grounded in logic, the other etheric, both intertwined to give weight to eachother and solidify the decision.

This spring, one of Mike’s bulls tested sterile, a fatal flaw in a herd bull.  Since Mike was rather overwhelmed with the idea of having to buy a new bull immediately, I suggested he lease a neighbor’s bull for the summer and then use Baby.  Baby will initially breed heifers this coming spring (“heifers” = females that have not had a calf, like “maiden.”  Once they have a calf, they are “cows”).  Once he reaches his full size and weight, he will breed cows.

A week or so before the sterility issue came to light, I was out in the pasture with Baby and was…”given information,” for lack of a better way of describing it.  This bull has a specific job ahead of him, one I can’t (won’t) go into detail over right now, although everyone will be privy when the time comes.  It’s beautiful and exciting, but he needs to grow up first.  Into a bull.

Do you groom the cows?  Yes!  They love being brushed.  It’s the only time I ever see them being rude to eachother – they will push eachother out of the way for more one-on-one time with the brush.

Do they have shelter?  Yes!  Though I must say, these animals are tough.  When I first moved to Wyoming, I had Mike’s two horses in the pasture at the house I rented.  One day a huge storm blew in. I led the horses into the garage so they would be out of the weather.  The horses were as baffled as my neighbors.

However, all the animals have shelter at the corrals, and one section is fully enclosed and heatable.  This is where Daisy will have her calf and where I will milk during the cold winter and wet spring months.

You can find other posts about Daisy here, here, and here.  And Daisy pictures here, here, here, here, and here!

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