"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

July 31, 2011

Charlotte and Wilbur

Charlotte, left, and Wilbur in their private pasture earlier this summer.
We found several calves in the pastures in late winter and early spring who were ill or whose mother had died, or who were rejected by their mother after birth. [Not all cows seem preconditioned to motherhood, just as all women aren't, either.] They were isolated in make-shift, warm areas in the near-empty hay shed, so they would not pass along scours. Each had to be bottle-fed twice a day. Of these calves, only Wilbur and Charlotte survived and then thrived, put together in their own shady and grassy enclosure near the hay shed and close by. In early July, we put them in a larger pasture with their fellow calves, some older and some the same age.

Charlotte, a few days old, was born in early April.

Wilbur has always been bigger than Charlotte,
even though he was born a few weeks later

We soon realized that Charlotte and Wilbur were always on the outside of the herd, maybe a hundred feet away, maybe further, but always together. We would see them grazing on the hillside in the East Field while the other calves were bunched together near the road or lying near the herd but not a part of it.

Wilbur has a blind eye. We don't know what took place but this can happen with pasture-raised cattle. My husband put him in with a younger bull in another pasture a few weeks ago to separate him in case it is an infectious disease and to protect his eye.

Charlotte seemed mournful. Still not a part of the herd, she isolated herself and we didn't see her as much. This morning my husband went to the East Field and down to the creek to look for her, fearing the worst. He found her in the creek, on her side, panting and very frail. It was clear she had been kept by the other calves from the grain supplement or just choosing not to eat.


Yet we believe there must be something more. Can non-related livestock form a close bond with each other? [We have seen this in the deer we have raised and set free.] Was she too upset to eat because Wilbur had been taken away from her? Or were the other calves just shunning her and did this cause her failure to thrive?

Charlotte and Wilbur are together again. She has had some shots of penicillin, some grain, some fresh water, and is in the pasture with Wilbur and the small bull. We hope she will turn the corner, once again, for a full recovery as she did after she was born. She is only among a few farm animals that we have named. That, some argue, is not a good idea on a farm––and being on a farm also persistently tests my qualms about eating animals. But as she's bonded with Wilbur, we have bonded with them both. And I recall my favorite childhood book, Charlotte's Web, and wonder what E.B. White might have thought.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

4 comments:

  1. Every animal on my parents farm had a name and a personality...it was always hard on shipping day to say goodbye.

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  2. Have you ever noticed that the moms of the herd sometimes 'babysit' the calves? It sure seemed like that to us. It was almost like they'd take turns while the other moms went off to eat a while...or maybe I'm just romanticizing!

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  3. Here is a blog I wrote a few months back that was somewhat the same theme as yours. Hope you enjoy it.

    http://themusicalgardener.blogspot.com/2011/01/elswood-and-nimrod.html

    Musical Gardener

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  4. I love your baby calves they are so precious!

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