Hide and seek — calf style | Bestyet A.I Sires | Grazing Genetics from Dutch Belted and Milking Shorthorns

2023 note: I wrote this more than ten years ago. I learned my lesson that day, and never again have I snuck up on a lone calf far from its dam.

Reprinted with permission from The Times. Winifred and Martha have been writing columns for the regional newspaper for over a decade. Here’s a slice of our farm life we think you’ll enjoy.

I pride myself on being a pretty good stockman.

I have found that pride can be a dangerous thing.  It causes a person to get overconfident and to take stupid chances. 

 One afternoon last May I had one of those lapses in judgment, and my son Paul had to come to the rescue. 

It all started when I did something I knew I shouldn’t—approach a hiding newborn calf when the herd was not nearby.  When a calf like this is startled, it will bolt, taking off in any random direction, and often not stopping for miles, being completely disoriented if the mother or some other cows are not around.

On this particular day, I must have been too curious to find out if this new calf was indeed a heifer and whether it was polled (which I find out by rubbing the top of the head to feel if there are no horn buttons), so I took a chance and snuck up on her after the cows had gone on home to drink.  One reason I hadn’t checked her when the mother was there is because I know how dangerous mothers can be!

Sometimes a newborn is quite passive and sleepy on a warm day after filling her tummy with mother’s milk, but this one let out a “Baa-a-a” and went careening off in the opposite direction of home and the cows, straight into the slough which was shin deep in water and waist high in canarygrass.  I knew better than to try to pursue and catch up with her, so I stopped and let her calm down. She splashed along for a ways and then laid down right in the water, thinking she was hiding again.   I kept track of her exact spot.

Like a good stockman, I had my cell phone in my pocket so I phoned my son Paul who fortunately was just home from his teaching job, and when I recounted the crisis, he walked down across the field from his house to approach our target from the other side.  We kept in touch by cell phone, and I described exactly where she was from where I was standing.

Of course, we both knew there was no way we could catch this calf by driving or chasing her.  Paul’s plan was to pounce on her before she had a chance to see or hear him coming.  So he slunk toward her, crouching down to conceal himself behind the grass. As soon as he saw her, he noted which direction she was facing so he could lunge down on her front end to hold her down if she tried to leap forward.  

With a mighty splash Paul was spread out in the water on top of the calf, subduing her while I slipped the halter on that I’d fashioned with twine string I kept in my pocket. 

He said he felt like a lynx ambushing its prey. 

He carried her most of the way home, and we finally got her reunited with her concerned mother.  We named the calf Marshmallow Fluff in honor of her marshy escapade.

 I’m thankful Paul is such a good sport, and didn’t even remonstrate me for my carelessness.  He actually seemed to enjoy the thrill of the hunt.