It’s tragic when you come across one of your cows struggling to stay alive. Such was Rikki’s mother when we found her – too late, her afterbirth not released had become septic. There was nothing merciful to do but shoot her. She could barely stand.
But what of her little calf – just a few days old? We managed to run her down, catch her, take her home and name her. She was terrified the poor little thing.
Though she was depressed for about a week, she adapted quickly and learned to suckle the bottle the first day. She bonded with us too and was most upset when we retreated inside the house. She would stand at the back door, trying to get in.
Being empty-nesters, both Chris and I embraced the opportunity to look after someone again. We’re quite pathetic really, LOVING having someone dependent once more. The twice daily feeding regime was no burden at all.
But we couldn’t maintain her emotional dependence on us … tempting as it was. So we relegated her to one of the paddocks near the house holding some of last year’s offspring. She could make some new friends.
Each morning, Rikki would stand at the gate bleating, calling for her bottle. But it was never enough. She always wanted more, her sucking reflex so strong, driving her. Also, you had to be ready for her reflex to nudge the udder (which normally would release her mother’s milk). A sharp, sudden head butt could catch you off guard in awkward places (particularly for Christopher!).
Though it’s probably socially improper to share this with you, some of her new friends liked to take advantage of her sucking reflex. Some quickly switched on steers, would stand close by waiting for the end of her feed whereby she would happily oblige them by finding something else to suck … I’ll leave it to your imagination! These are the realities of living at close quarters with wild beasts who exhibit none of our social constraints!
Though Rikki is more independent now, we still love her. It’s nice to give her a hug and she loves having her belly rubbed. I’m glad she wasn’t a young bull as we will be able to integrate her into our breeding herd eventually. Young bulls (once turned into steers) go off to market at the appropriate weight. That would have been a sad day.
But then I always feel a little sad when the young steers and heifers go off to market. Life as a grazier is full of emotional challenges but, I guess, saying goodbye to your well-cared-for stock, is a minor one when all things are considered.
At least I won’t have goodbye to Rikki … not for a long time anyway.