My life goal of having a herd of huggable heifers was not going as planned. Bessie and Nellie were no longer acting like Dementors, but they sure didn’t like us very much. I was willing to give them time, seeing that we chased them through the woods and all, but we weren’t making ANY progress. They wouldn’t come anywhere near us and weeks had passed. I was very sad. These cows were defective. I wanted to send them back but Cattle Daddy said they had “nice breed standards” or something that made my eyes roll. He said it was normal cattle behavior to not like humans or hugs. This didn’t sound reasonable. I needed huggable heifers.
A few months, and MANY long days of fence repair later, Cattle Daddy mentions heading out to pick up some bottle bulls the next day. I didn’t think that much about it, mostly because I was still pouting about our defective cows and fading dreams of huggable heifers. The next day, I get home from work and remember that he was out getting these bottle bulls, still not getting my hopes up. A short time later, in pulls the truck and trailer. I head out to greet these new additions with apprehension and expectation of more Dementors…I was wrong!!!
In the trailer were four of the CUTEST. Damn. Fur balls. I’d ever seen in my life!! FOUR 12-day old calves!!! TWELVE DAYS OLD!!! They were so small that we CARRIED them into their stall!! CARRIED COWS! Eeeeek! I will admit I lost all my senses for a moment. Maybe several. Think Despicable Me and the fuzzy unicorn scene…I was in HEAVEN!!!
(For those that do not think this is such a big deal, please remember that the smallest cow I’d seen before that day were the Dementors, and they were like four MONTHS old, so bear with me here.)
We carried the little guys into a horse stall with their own outside pasture and I didn’t want to leave them! I would have pulled out the sleeping bag and stayed with them all night! Bessie and Nellie came over to check them out, daring to be closer to us than ever before! I was in love!! Even Cattle Daddy was taken in with these babies! He grinned like a proud papa!! AND, the best part is that they’re called bottle babies because they must be HAND FED with a bottle!! (Shush, again, for those that knew this.) HEAVEN. I was hugging those little beasts until their eyes popped out!!! Life goal achieved!! Crazy Cow Lady was born!!!
Now…on to the lesson. Scours.
Life with bottle bulls was AMAZING…and a bit exhausting. These little guys require a bottle of milk replacement twice a day (baby formula basically) and they poop. A lot. Like babies but outdoors. This begins my membership to Barn Gym, aka cleaning stalls. It’s worth it though because they are SO damn cute. They make my day. How can you possibly have a bad day when four little fur balls welcome you home and spring happy tails when you give them their bottles?!?! And I can hug them all I want!
Enter scours. Scours, in a simple sentence, would be an intestinal issue in calves that causes extreme diarrhea and could easily lead to death. Please feel free to Google for more information, as I am in no way a veterinarian. It’s common in bottle bulls and our smallest guy was showing symptoms. The farm that we purchased the calves from offers 24/7 after care for their customers and we were quick to call them. We had to switch to electrolytes and scours treatment and make sure they didn’t get dehydrated. I was horrified that our baby was going through this. I sat in the stall with him and cuddled with him and gave him kisses. Unbeknownst to me, scours are very contagious…for humans too.
The following day I felt like death. Beyond death. My symptoms matched those of the little guy out in the barn. You can Google that too. You’ll thank me. I texted my boss, who was already following my calf adventures, with something like “calf has scours, I kissed calf, I may have scours, I won’t be making it in today”. He found this VERY amusing and mentioned an award for the best sick leave excuse on record. I endured this nightmare for three days. (Side note: GREAT weight loss plan, although not recommended.)
Upon returning to the barn, I followed Ebola bio-hazard handling recommendations. I still hugged the poor little guy, then scrubbed myself with scalding water like surgery prep. Of course, the rest of the babies caught the sickness and we were out there three or four times a day making sure they were hydrated and improving.
During this time, I also learned how to use the pill shooter! It’s exactly like the one used on dogs, but MUCH longer! And the babies were getting better! #calfmedic! Hey, I’m easily amused, what can I say?
To end on a positive note, the calves (and I) survived the scours and were healthy and happy within a couple of weeks. I created the Bottle Calf Survival Guide so others can avoid our mistakes and have a more enjoyable experience. If you are brave enough to dive into bottle calf ownership, I hope you enjoy the information in the guide below! It can also be found on the Life Hacks page and baby pictures of the calves can be found in the gallery and on my Instagram feed! Enjoy!
Thank you for joining me in this adventure, my dear friends!