Swoosh, out I slide onto a carpet of grass from my gentle mother’s warm womb. My first gasps of breath drink in the clear fresh air gracing the prairie lands where I’ve arrived. I raise my head, shake it unsteadily and begin my urgent driven efforts to rise and nurse. A large cow with rough husky tongue, suddenly, is stroking my slimy back and head, assisting in drying my body from the wet environment just exited. Within minutes I manage to stand, my mother’s persistent licking causing some challenges as my wobbly legs struggle to support my body and actually operate a stepping stride. Magically I seem to seek a rich warm drink of my mother’s milk, suspended deliciously and nearby in her pendulous full udder. I find even suckling can challenge a newborn, but with some persistence and my cow’s patience, I succeed getting a delightful, nutritious first meal. I Look around. The quiet pasture presents sweet grasses spotted with occasional wildflowers, a cacophony of bird songs fill the air along with my mother’s attentive moos as lay down for-my first calf nap.
My days unfold, my mother being the center of my existence for her nurturing meals and her constant presence. I find other young calves frisking about, so I try my legs at a good buck and run.
I notice people about, always the same people, one affixing a numbered ear tag when I was only hours old, now occasionally about, moving us from pasture to pasture with a call and sometimes we move away as they approach. Herding it’s called. I am somewhat dubious of these people, but they are quiet, for the most part, seem unobtrusive and only occasionally approach or move us all in a group to different fields or the corral.
The turmoil of the corral is always startling, but I have found no reason for undo alarm. The same people are about, close by now, even touching .me, forcing me to enter a tight chute for a prick of a needle (vaccinations) and the boys find a quick surgical procedure once gives them some not understood occasion for momentary pause, quite quickly healed and forgotten.
Another time we cross a new type of platform where we must stand by ourselves for a matter of seconds before being released. This same person adjusts a balance scale to my left side, quietly working as I fidget, talking to me in that quiet voice I’ve come to know.
I grow rather large in only a few months. Now I drain my mother’s udder in only a couple minutes, spend little time with her these days, mainly cavorting about with my peers and doing lots of gazing entirely on my own.
All of sudden, it seems, these same people, now mounted on the backs of imposingly large and agile creatures, horses, herd us quietly but deliberately back to the corral pens.
In no time, all us calves find our mothers on the other side of a large heavy board fence and a new contraption, bunk feeder, nearby filled with fresh hay. Initially seeming fine and the hay sweet, we calves wonder why our cow mothers are bawling loudly for us to “come now!” on the other side of the fence. Weaning it‘s called. We are allowed no longer to take our mother’s delicious milk. We have grown large over the two hundred days of our life now weighing 500 to 700 pounds, half the size of our mothers. Time to part and give our mothers time to recover from the energy draining occupation of lactation that’s left them a bit on the thin side. Though necessary and proper for us both, weaning remains painful and noisy as both we and our mothers make the adjustment to separation.
These same people do allow us to remain in full sight of each other where smells through the fence help sooth our angst. All the noisy anxiety lasts only few days. Then our cow mothers cease to come by, instead choosing to move off and graze. We are relaxed too, ready for life as an individual.
Shorty we to find ourselves moved back on lush pasture, again cavorting about, enjoying the full days, open air and shared environment with the birds and wild creatures that abound on the Camas Prairie Ranch.
Eating seems to consume us. Growing is hungry business and the green lush grasses prove a perfect diet. These people still are about regularly. Now our group of calves move from one pasture to another regularly, learning to come when called as fresh grasses await our hungry graze.
Occasionally we are ushered up to that corral and asked to walk-across the platform scales as our person again manipulates a balance bar and scribbles numbers on a pad. Now we stand, moving quietly through the task. When wintertime neglects to allow the forages to growl we move up closer to the barn where the bunk feeder arrives again and is filled daily, twice daily actually, by this same parson who now talks to us appreciatively, and always puts us entirely at: ease.
Occasionally a pen-mate is singled out to leave. Why, I wonder? But the same constant person is there, talking the same words I’ve heard many times before, asking a certain steer to move off, so they oblige.
One day a group of us heifers are moved to a new pasture and we find an alarming new large fellow has been turned out in our midst. The bull proves to be gentle yet energetic and certainly big. We find sharing our pasture with him most amenable.
Then one day, nine months later, we find ourselves rising with a new baby calf ourselves. The circle of life begins again as I moo passionately at my new calf anxious to please my baby as she learns the joys, quiet beauty and constant care of life on the Camas Prairie Ranch.
Harlow Cattle Company