Saturday I visited the Washington County fair with my sisters. We had a fine time looking at sheep and chickens and quilts. In the cow barn, we found a Jersey who had just given birth to a heifer calf. It was still wet, with the mother licking it assiduously. I was, of course, entranced, but lots of parents were trying to help their kids see, so I got out of the way and came back later.
The calf was standing up by then, standing and falling, and getting back up. A young man was in the little stall with them. He said it was the cow's first calf, and the zoo keeper part of me promptly went tharn. Bring an animal to a busy fair for a birth? A young cow with no experience? What if the calf presented wrong and was born dead? What if she freaked out and trampled the calf? What if she rejected it due to stress?
But, but, but... This was a domestic animal and those zoo keeper reflexes were inappropriate. They became even more inappropriate as I watched the three of them--cow, calf, handler--interact.
The little gal didn't know much, but she knew what she had to do. Find a large brown object, shove your nose under it, and find something to suck. The cow was amenable to this.
Here we had a willing mother and a healthy baby, the infant/maternal dance in perfect step. How often have zoo people prayed for just that? Please please please don't panic and step on your kid or refuse to let it nurse. Please let the baby be strong and healthy and insistent on finding the nipple. This while tip-toeing around the den or stall and watching from remote video cameras.
But that was not the program. The future for the heifer was a bottle, which the boy kept offering her. She wanted no part of it, but eventually he will win out. The calf will be bottle fed, then pail fed. The cow will go to the milking stall twice a day. I will have cream in my coffee, and that is how it is.