Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Graft a Calf.

Have you ever heard of 'grafting fruit trees'? How about grafting a calf?
Ah. I thought that might be new to you.

It's quite a normal, frequent procedure on a cattle ranch. At least the ranches I have been on.
First off, the seasoned mama cows are usually pretty good mothers. But the first time heifers are often less...motherly. Sometimes they will refuse to let the baby suck milk - and that is a bad thing. Sometimes they even kick their babies. (Please don't insult yourself or anyone else by suggesting that we have evolved from any kind of animal or non-human organism....I can't imagine any woman I know who would kick her newborn!)
Anyways, so when the new mama won't let the baby suck, we  try to find a cow who will adopt it. However, since most cows aren't too interested in the social aspects of an abandoned baby - we must convince her to adopt.
Here is an abandoned baby - only a few days old, or less.
 So, My Cowboy has to do the un-fun part of cowboying, and skin a calf that (in this case) has been dead for 2-3 days. This calf died during or shortly after birth. My Cowboy cuts the skin off with a skinning knife.
 Meanwhile, I ooh and aah over the cuteness of baby cows. My Cowboy has tied this baby up by the legs, so that it can't jump off the truck and hurt it's little self.
 My trusty sidekick is always standing ready to help... or just make me smile!
 Despite being tied up - this calf managed to flop off the truck somehow, so My Cowboy had to slip a rope 'round it's neck, and head it back to the barn.

My Cowboy with his new pet. (just kiddin)
He slaps the wet hide from the dead calf over the back of the live calf.
....Ties it on with red twine - always available on any ranch. He makes slits through the hide on each corner, and slips the twine through the holes and under the chest and belly, tying it on securely. The idea is that if the cow smells her calf's skin - she won't know (or care) if it's actually a different calf. Then the abandoned/orphaned calf can live in disguise as her own. And everyone will be happy.

Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't. Here is the mother of the dead calf, and here is My Cowboy - pushing the abandoned calf inside the calving pen.

She sniffs the calf warily...

Success!!! Within seconds, that hungry baby went for the dinner table, and she let him. Yay! I slipped out to leave them bond in peace... The hungry baby has a new mama, and the sad mama cow has (unwittingly) been comforted by what she thinks is her own sweet baby. And My Cowboy doesn't have to bottle feed this calf. :) Everyone is happy.

...And if you think cows don't get sad, well, you should've seen the poor mama cow whose dead baby I pulled into the barn with the truck a few days ago. She bawled mournfully the whole way in from the field. Sniffing her baby - trying to figure out what was up. And when we put her in a pen, she went crazy trying to get back out to her baby. We had to put the dead baby in with her, just to keep her quiet till My Cowboy could go graft a live calf for her to mother.
I even felt sad for her.

Now I think I should stop writing about sad mamas, or I shall have to find my tissue box.

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