|Most mothers in the animal kingdom are excellent mothers.|
Not all mothers are good mothers, some are even horrible mothers. We know this exists among humans but it happens in nature, too. Sometimes a mother cow will abandon her calf, despite its bleating. Other times a mother cow will die in childbirth or soon after, despite the best interventions, thus orphaning her young. It is sad but you can't linger in the sorrow of it or it might consume you. I have developed a thicker skin since living on our own farm, especially after the loss of three dogs (to our own naiveté about the predators on the farm, including other neighbor dogs), many chickens, and several cows (and deer, raised from birth, who have returned to their natural nearby habitat, as it should be). Rule number 1 is for a reason: don't name your farm animals.
Inevitable loss is a part of farm life that isn't often shared. While we raise beef cattle that are well-cared for here at Valley View Farm, they will eventually end up on someone's dinner plate. This is the reality. What we can do is provide them a good life while they're here. I concur with Wendell Berry: "I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade." Hypocritical? Perhaps. I do not claim to be a vegetarian but there are times since living on our own farm when I have questioned my predilection for meat.
|Wilbur is often by himself in the calf pasture.|
|Meet Edgar Meeker Pond! (Yes, I'm nuts.)|
Just after Christmas we had our first truly abandoned calf. A newborn Hereford calf was found bleating in the pasture behind the house. For days my husband, boys, and some men hired to help move the cattle, went looking for the mother. No luck as no one was coming forward. It normally would have been easy to spot her: she would have seemed frantic, bellowing and carrying on, especially if she had heard the cries of her own calf. So they brought the calf over near the sorting shed and we've been bottle-feeding him ever since. I've named him Edgar (an old untapped surname on my mother's side). And yes, he's staying. He and Wilbur will have their own "pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture" for the rest of their days.