Once upon a time there was a little girl who took pride in her animals and did everything in her power to take care of them. She would give them extra treats when her dad wasn’t looking. They never went a day without being loved, pet, and scratched in their favorite spots. She wrote stories about each of her cows in 5th grade. All of them had names and had a special spot in her heart. This little girl is me.
What that little girl doesn’t tell you is that she fails sometimes. Sometimes she doesn’t get there in time to save the day. Sometimes she slips and falls. Sometimes she cries. Sometimes her cows get hurt.
In February of this year (2015) we had a week of bitter cold weather. The wind chill was -13 and the temperature was barely above 0 degrees. It was a miserable week and chilled you to the bone. Imagine being born outside in that weather. Well I didn’t have to imagine it. On Tuesday night, -14 degrees outside, a little baby girl cow was born outside. Dad and I had been checking all the cows every day and night for signs of labor/calving. We checked our breeding books (we keep track of which day a cow was bred so that we can get a good estimate to when she will calve) and we didn’t have anyone that was close to calving. So we thought.
Lucy was born. Four weeks early. In thee most bitterly cold week of the entire winter. My poor Lucy.
Dad and I found Lucy early the next morning. Automatic fear went through our veins. Dad was yelling at me to call the vet as he was running to go pick Lucy up. Dad wasn’t thinking about his arthritis or bad back when he threw this 60 pound calf up on his shoulder and ran her to the heated shed. He was sick with disappointment. Disappointment in himself. His big blue eyes were full of sadness.
This is one our worst fears. A cow calving early in bad conditions. We thought we were doing everything in our power to keep our new babies safe, but we could have never predicted a premature baby.
We got Lucy into the heated shed, covered her up with blankets, put a large heater beside her, gave her some cow ibuprofen, and prayed. We prayed for her life. Her limbs. Her pain.
Lucy was completely frozen on one side of her body. Her left leg, thigh, ears, and front knees were extremely frost bit. I was just sick thinking about her condition. I didn’t think she was going to make it.
Well, Lucy survived her first night, which is always a good sign.
We fed her bottles twice a day, got her the best baby starter food money can buy, and put her in the coziest spot on the farm. Lucy never had a problem eating her food or getting up to jump around. Every day I would get in the pen with her, pet her, let her lick my hands, and played. We would run around, throw our tails in the air, and have fun.
Lucy’s ears did eventually fall half off and she lost some hair from the frost bite. The worst thing that happened is that Lucy lost half of her back hoof. Just half. She can walk perfectly fine and acts like a normal calf!
Without Dad and myself, she would have never survived. She would have died out there in the cold. But she didn’t. We saved her. We prayed for her. We loved her. We warmed her heart.
My dad is an amazing farmer who has taught me so many wonderful things on the farm. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me is: “When an animal is sick you need to love and comfort them. Love can go a long way in healing an animal. Always remember that Kellie. You’re acting as their mother.”