The beauty of living with your cattle is the intimate interaction you have with them on a daily basis. This interaction is critical in times of crisis and however difficult it may be to stomach some of the bad things that nature can dole out, it is also good because we have the ability to intervene when we feel we might be able to turn the tables in a positive manner.
One of the biggest things I have learned over the past five years is to pay attention. When we start calving, as we are now, we have to check on our stock constantly to watch out for potential problems. Just the other day we had two new calves born that were both hanging out together under a tree with only one mother present. We weren't sure if the cow had twins or if the other mother was off eating somewhere so we made it a point to check on the group regularly throughout the day because if she did indeed have twins she could very well reject one. Under those circumstances we would have to immediately start bottle feeding the other calf or it would die.
Later that evening one lone calf was all by itself in a different area without any mother in sight. This is where nature vs. nurture gets tricky. If you move in too soon and the cow was just off eating you risk having the cow come back and reject the calf. If the calf truly needs help and we wait too long it could die, a hand-wringing situation. My call was to look first thing in the morning and if the calf was still there by itself I would intervene. Sure enough, the next morning it was in the same spot by itself and not a cow around for miles. I figured it would be easy to catch the newborn so I got a raw egg and mixed some formula in a bottle and headed out. Like all things cattle, nothing is ever easy. The little bugger gave me a run for my money but I finally got him. Quickly I poured a raw egg down his throat to get the gut working then started pouring milk down as well until his sucking instinct started. As soon as it did I put the nipple on the bottle and let the little critter nurse on the rest of the bottle. Quickly you could see him begin to come to life so I left him nestled in some hay under a tree and decided to see if a mother showed up.
Checking back later the calf was gone so I decided to find the rest of the herd to see if the calf was there and lo and behold it was nursing on it's mother. Thank God! Sometimes mothers are impatient with their newborns and don't long enough if their calf is slow to get up and nurse. Looking out for their own stomachs they just take off for the nearest hay regardless of the outcome. This is survival of the fittest but in this case my intervention helped save a calf. The egg and the milk gave the calf just enough energy to find it's mother and latch on.
I have learned when in doubt don't trust mother nature...nurture.
Food has been at the core of my life for thirty years. My travels have taken me all over the world creating a rich tapestry of experiences that have shaped my philosophies on cooking. My life now as a cattle rancher combines that experience with the knowledge of what it actually takes to get food from the ranch to the table.
Cowboys's aren't just boys!