I’ve never wanted a bottle calf. In my experience, four-legged bottle babies are pushy, demanding pests. A few years ago I got a scary-looking hickey from a bottle calf that thought my thumb made a good pacifier. I’ve been bumped, shoved, and slobbered silly by half-grown calves that think humans are just part of the herd. No, I vowed, I would never raise a bottle calf.
And then along came Cocoa.
We tried. We really tried hard, Rosie and I. Rosie birthed that calf, cleaned her up, nudged and nursed her, grunted, nuzzled and — dare I say — loved her calf. I gave Rosie all the fresh water she could drink and her favorite prairie hay, plus alfalfa pellets and a bit of grain for extra energy. Rosie ate, drank, and directed what resources she could into making milk.
It wasn’t enough though. Rosie just doesn’t have enough milk, not yet. This happens sometimes with premature births. So the vet says. So say the neighbors, who have much bigger cattle herds than ours. So we’re supplementing Rosie’s supply with morning and evening bottles. Right now, Cocoa’s still using a lamb nipple. The lamb nipples are smaller, more supple, and just better suited to a tiny, premature calf with weak sucking motion. Cocoa’s gotten stronger the last few days though, and greedier, so I expect we’ll switch to the regular calf bottles soon with their bigger, tougher nipples.
Speaking of greedy . . . is that Rosie’s tongue?
Rosie was not a bottle calf. She shows extraordinary interest in that bottle though. She’ll lick off every last drop of milky slobber from the calf’s chin.
Sometimes I’m not sure whether she’s trying to clean up her calf or steal its bottle so she can suck down that milky goodness herself.
You be the judge.
If Rosie makes herself a nuisance, I tap her nose and she’ll back off. For a minute. She’s generally a very sweet, mannerly cow, but that milk tastes so good.
Rosie can’t help herself. Before long, she’s stretching out her neck, leaning closer . . . sniffing . . . sniffing . . . sniffing.
I tap her nose again and tell her to back up. She backs up because, as I said, she’s a mannerly cow. But she’s still thinking about that milk . . . licking her lips . . . and . . . well . . . YUCK!
There are some things you just can’t teach a cow not to do, even a mannerly one.