We had a great time while we were at the Michigan State Fair, at the first ever MASH Highland Show held at the new state fair in Novi Michigan. Unfortunately the weather inside for the cattle blessed with attending the show was far superior than the weather for the rest of the herd. We are close enough to Novi that we could commute so Larry went home Friday night to check cows and planned on coming back down Saturday morning for the show. He arrived in a timely manner, telling me we had one small white heifer calf and while he hadn't seen her nurse yet, he got some pour-on eprinex on her (to prevent fly eggs from developing into maggots-something we try to do to each of the calves born during fly season.) Sounded good, the show went well, we decided to head home Sunday morning to make sure everything was still on course.
Well, that would have been asking too much. Sunday was a miserably hot, muggy day, with a heat index about 95 or so. We arrive home to 3 cows having calved; A huge bull calf maybe 3 hours old; another good sized bull maybe an hour old, and the third cow with a well cleaned off pair of twin heifers. Oh great!! The most recent mom looked exhausted and miserable; panting, depressed with a bull calf that probably didn't look at all appealing to her maternal instinct in all that heat and humidity. With the weather so hot, and us heading back to the fair, we decided to get them all in and make sure they nursed before we left to another 36 hours. I thawed colostrum for the twins, so make sure they both got enough. Fed them both a bottle with no problem and got them started on their mother. Next up; the huge bull calf. Well, he would drink out of the bottle, but there was no way to force him on his mother; he would have none of it. Milked out mom and gave him everything. Kept her up close in the paddock. Third in line was the white bull with the exhausted and unenthusiastic mother. There was no bringing her in. She circled back around and would not be directed into the pen. Too hot to chase her any longer, she will drop from heat stroke. We were not about to leave him without something in his stomach, so got more colostrum thawing, snagged him up on the Polaris, fed him, hit him with fly dope and dropped him off where we found him. Off we go to the fair.
Heat --wise, Labor Day was no better than Sunday, except that the monsoon we drove through cooled the temperature off for our show victims, who about now were appreciating that air-conditioned building as much as we had. We arrive home only to find that of our 5 calves born over the weekend, only 2 had nursed on their own. The original white heifer, and the smaller of the twins. Hot, sticky, tired and not at all happy with the situation, we set about to make sure everybody gets some liquid in them ASAP. Exhausted mother not looking much less exhausted, but she is over by the handling facility and we round her up first. She has a gorgeous big bag that is obviously untouched by calf lips. We get him on her almost immediately, but have to help him start. Monster boy will still have none of this nursing on the real thing business; he wants his milk delivered to his mouth with virtually no effort on his part. His mother is a shorter legged cow, and he is huge; big, tall, handsome and as dumb as a rock. He will not nurse off her. I can't hold his head under her without him slamming my wrist into the very hard metal bars of the chute. Touch her teat to his delicate little mouth and all nursing behavior stops. He will suck off the bottle, suck off my fingers, but not off the cow. If I could snap that thick, muscular neck, we would have veal for dinner. Witnesses describe a detailed education in the English language not found in most dictionaries. We milk out mother and feed him a bottle. Will try again tomorrow morning. There is no love to lose between us.
The twins, in retrospect, are a piece of cake. Get them both nursing at the same time, but the little one is the smart one; she knows precisely what to do and has taken advantage of the situation. Her bigger sister is slower on the uptake and I venture to guess will not be bigger for much longer.
Next morning, we have to help the white bull nurse off his mother; he knows what to do, just won't start on his own. I put her on the chute and milk out one quarter to use later to help me start big dummy. Well, glad I did it, because she now has mastitis in 2 of her 4 quarters, probably from walking around for 36 hours with an unnursed udder, standing in as much mud as she could find. I treat all 4 quarters. Get the big dummy's mother on the chute; he still will not have anything to do with nursing. Milk her out again (at least she doesn't have mastitis) and decide I will put the white calf's mother on the chute and try to get big dummy nursing on her. She is considerably taller and I might have an easier time getting him started on her, rather than his real mother. PM rolls around and I am in luck. She is just tall enough that it doesn't feel like such a fight to get him on her. Her teats are a little longer and probably shaped more like the bottle nipples, so he actually nurses off her. The next morning is a complete success; everybody is now nursing off their own mother; only the big dummy requires assistance starting. Unfortunately, the white's dam still has mastitis, but it is a relatively mild case, he sucks her dry when he nurses, so I only have to put her on the chute twice a day to treat her after he nurses. 24 hours later, her milk is clear, big dummy is nursing without help and all seems momentarily right with the world.
Then pinkeye strikes.