Dolores, bless her little heart

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Last week we did some cattle work, vaccinating all the calves against pink eye then moving the herd out to the back paddock where there is more feed for them. We moved the whole herd to the yards on Friday morning, leaving behind two cows and their calves who were too young to move; one, a day old, the other just newborn that day. We also left someone else behind, without knowing it…

At the end of a day, we let the mums and babes and mums-to-be in to the Lemon Tree Paddock and opened the gate to the Back Paddock. The cows and calves needed to reunite and everyone needed to rest awhile. Time enough the next day to push them out through the gate.

On Saturday morning my husband went back to the paddock on Native Dog to check to see if any calves had been left behind. He always does this. He usually finds someone, it’s so hard to find them all during the muster as newborn calves are often tucked away by their mums and impossible to see when sleeping in the long grass. And though my brother and two friends had checked late on Friday afternoon, there she was, tiny, only about three or four days old. She was with one of the cows and its calf.

By the time my husband came home, a cow with a full udder had come back to the home paddock looking for her calf. So we opened the gate and she headed straight off in the direction of the short cut to Native Dog, through our neighbour’s place, the way we’d driven the herd the day before.

We followed her with Ellie, for once, pretending to be a real cattle dog.  She went straight to where the calf was.

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But it wasn’t to be that simple. Though she called her calf, and the little one replied as best she could, the cow went straight past her.  When we finally guided them together in the next paddock, the cow would smell the calf and seem OK with her, just, but she kept kicking and head butting her away. We thought we’d made a mistake and that this was not her mother.

The little calf was exhausted and weak so my husband picked her up and put her in the back of the vehicle.  He climbed in and sat next to her, gently holding her safe.

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We took her back home and put her with the rest of the herd to see if her mother would find her. It was hopeless. Over a hundred cows plus four bulls plus forty other calves. The little one was buffeted and pushed from pillar to post, looking for her mum. She could no long call out, she was hoarse and could only make a terrible and faint bleating sound. No Mum came forward.

We picked her up again and we called her Dolores because it means sorrow. I’ve never seen a more miserable baby. At home we made up some calf milk replacer and she drank a litre. Good, but I was very worried about her.  The inside of her mouth was so hot.

After leaving Dolores in the home paddock and putting Bluebelle in with her, for company, we went back to Native Dog to bring the cow back, figuring that her calf must be somewhere in the herd. It took longer to walk her home but she was very good. Milk was streaming from her teats all the way. It was just on dark by the time we got back.

That night Dolores slept near Bluebelle in the home paddock. The next morning she drank two litres of milk replacer. Good, and her temperature was down, but I’ve got to get her back with her mum.

Of course, the cow was back again in the morning too, still searching. We were sure she was Dolores’s mum. What went wrong yesterday? I rang my neighbour.  He suggested that she pushed her calf away because her udder was so full and sore when Dolores tried to nurse. He offered to come over on Sunday evening to milk out the cow and try to get mother and babe reunited.

Dolores spent the day in the yards with her mum, but the cow was not interested in her at all. But after going through the herd again, we were certain now that they were mother and daughter.

In the end my neighbour didn’t have to milk the mum. Merely putting her in the crush and giving the baby a chance to get on to her did the trick. She was so good. She just stood still and let Dolores nurse. It was beautiful. Dolores drank and drank, her tummy filling up like a football.

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I left them in the yards overnight and next morning Dolores was drinking from her mum. I let them in to the home paddock to keep an eye on them both.

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What a happy sight. Dolores nursing from her mum, in the rain, while Bluebelle looks on from the next paddock. Just after I took this photo, her mum licked Dolores all over. Lovely strong, rough licks that ruffled her coat.

And, by the way, did I mention it was raining? A very happy sight indeed. The Spring break was finally here and all was right with the world.

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