Hormonal Heifer

So yesterday, I shared with you the story of one of our heifers and how she gave birth on Monday evening. I came upon them when the calf was just a few minutes old. The heifer was overloaded on new mom hormones and just a little overexcited. Well, a lot overexcited.  I called Harland home from his fire dept. meeting when the heifer got too rough with her calf.

Here’s a video showing the calf just minutes after he was born. Later, Harland arrives home and  takes control of the situation:

 A few facts about taking care of newborn calves:

  • Newborn calves need colostrum (first milk) to be healthy, but because heifers don’t have much colostrum or don’t allow the calf to nurse at first, Harland gives all our newborn calves a good dose. It’s warm and nourishing, and contains antibodies to protect the calf from disease.
  • The pill he gave the calf prevents scours (diarrhea), which can be fatal in calves.
  • Spraying iodine on the umbilical cord stump helps to prevent navel ill, also known as joint ill, a fatal infection that enters into the little calves body through the umbilical cords of newborns.

There’s a powerful instinct that kicks in when a cow gives birth. She wants the calf on its feet as soon as possible. Even though she and her calf may be safe in the barn, in her mind, there are predators all around ready to come in and snatch her newborn. For this reason, she is very persistent about the calf getting up on his feet. Sometimes though, especially with heifers, she overreacts and can actually hurt the calf. It was actually a good thing that this heifer nudged the calf out of her pen because she calmed down a little bit after that.

Up next, we return the calf back into the pen with his mother. But will she take care of her calf without being to rough?

Stay tuned. ….



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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20 Responses

  1. Martha L says:

    Suzanne, you are getting a little too adept at keeping us on the edge of our emotional seats! 🙂 I feel for the little shivering guy.

  2. Glenda says:

    Being in the cattle business is hard work some of the time. No wonder the old farmers eventually have to give it up unless they have good help.

    • Suzanne says:

      It can be hard physical labor. Without help, a farmer can’t continue as he ages. Last night I found another of the heifers had calved. This was about 9:30pm. Harland changed out of his jammies and back into his farmer clothes and we took care of the calf. Got in late. Yawn.

  3. Edith says:

    It looks to me as if she was doing a very good job of trying to get that calf up. It was not her fault the gate was in her way. Plus you didn’t show that part which implies it was not that dramatic or dangerous to the calf. I do wonder how many Heifers have actually killed their calf.

    It’s amazing how humans think they know more about God implanted animal instincts. Also don’t you think God put everything in Cows milk that was needed to feed the baby?

    I’m not criticizing your efforts but pointing out the facts of life.


    • Suzanne says:

      You’re right..God does know best – He knows how to control the population of the animals he created. And so animals die of disease and accident and predation. I didn’t show the part where the heifer was bouncing her baby off the gate and barn wall because it was disturbing. She had a huge pen, but she had worked her way into a corner and ended up pounding her baby into it. I’ve seen cows step on, and injure their babies when worked up like this. I’ve seen calves sick from scours and a few years ago we had a calf that died from navel ill – a long agonizing death despite our best efforts. Part of nature is that animals to get sick and die, but as farmers we can’t stand by and let that happen, both for financial as well as moral reasons.

      • Edith says:

        Thus my point…the wall, and the gate were in her way.

        In all honesty it’s all about your investment and this is what is being protected. No harm or wrong in that accept when you make the Mother Cow out to be a bad Mother, and humans must intervene. This is wrong, and a very wrong impression is being made. This is also a moral issue.

        No hard feelings….just honesty.

        • Suzanne says:

          Not a bad mother, but just inexperienced, this being her first time and no one can tell her how it’s done.

          • Edith says:

            Even woman do not need to be told or taught how to take care of their babies….(accept the state thinks they do.) It’s already wired in.

            Same with animals……she doesn’t need to be told how it’s done…..smiles.

            I can see standing by in case she needs help…but in this case her Stall was the danger not her.

  4. Alica says:

    Looks like the baby is being well taken care of! Looks like farmers all over, think alike! The only thing we don’t do is give them a scour pill right away. But then…we’re hand feeding them twice a day, and can keep a close eye on them much easier than you can, with a beef herd! Hopefully the new heifer decides to be a gentle mother! Can’t wait to see what happened! 🙂

  5. Dee says:

    Love your farming stories and updates…AND the SUSPENSE!! I was raised on a KS farm & miss so much of that life – but I also know all of the hard work it takes.

    I have been thinking & praying about your health issues – any update on that?

  6. Jeanne says:

    You and Harland did well. I didn’t know there is a pill for scours – that’s great! Having seen that as a child… Didn’t know at all about the umbilical cord problem. I hope mama does well! Good thing Harland wasn’t too far away. Are there many more heifers left to calve?

    • Suzanne says:

      We’re on the downhill slope…just 3 heifers more to calve…whew! About 20 more cows due to calve up at the farm.

  7. Louise S says:

    Edith says: “Even woman do not need to be told or taught how to take care of their babies….(accept the state thinks they do.) It’s already wired in.”

    And yet we read or hear of mothers all the time who neglect or harm, even KILL, their own babies/children. There are misfits in every part of nature, so it is our moral obligation to step in and protect as much as we can.

    Suzanne, I applaud your and Harland’s dedication and thankless hard work to take the best care you can to raise healthy livestock. I’m eager to hear the end of this story! Thank you for sharing it.

    • Suzanne says:

      Very sad but true Louise. And we also have the occasional cow who has her calf and simply walks away, or worse, kicks the crap out of her calf every time it comes near.

      Thank you for your kind words. Much appreciated!

    • Edith says:

      Mother’s who harm their babies is an evil societal flaw….It is not within nature. Natural law is perfect, given from God.

      My statement stands. It is wired in by God on how to care for the young.

  8. Victoria in CT says:

    Edith, your comments don’t deserve any more attention than they’ve already garnered. So, I’ll hold my tongue and “accept” that not only do you you not grasp the simple concepts of animal husbandry …you also don’t know the difference between “accept” and “except”.

    Keep up the good work, Harland and Suzanne!

  9. Eden Hills says:

    Those new moms are enough to drive you crazy sometimes, that’s for sure.

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