Summer Brings Cavorting Calves
Story and photos By Carole Soule
Fiddlehead Contributing Writer
It’s summer. Here at Miles Smith Farm in Loudon that means 13 of our 20 expected calves have been born, mostly without incident.
Last year’s calves are getting fat on summer grass and the vegetable scraps we collect twice a week from Shaw’s in Gilford. Twenty-eight head are grazing at two different remote pastures. The sun has dried up the mud and our Scottish Highlander bull is loaned out to a farmer in Plymouth for a tryst with four lovely heifers.
Not only that, but these warm days and nights mean the farmer can leave the house without gloves, six layers of clothes and a Russian-style fur hat. Summertime means my husband, Bruce, and I don’t have to wonder if the diesel truck will start or if the water in the cow trough is frozen solid.
But we do still have to keep a close eye on each newborn to ensure the baby is healthy and the mom is attentive.
A cow will lick tirelessly to dry her newborn calf. It’s an essential part of mother-baby bonding, but it’s also vital for the calf’s health. In the first days of life, a calf can’t regulate her temperature and if the weather is cold or damp Mom’s fastidious licking will keep the calf warm and dry.
Newborn calves sleep most of the time, waking every few hours to nurse. By the time the calves are two weeks old, the story changes; they become racing rascals. The little white calf named Magnolia head butts Rain, a red baby, while white Sugar dashes in circles chasing Thor, a brown bull-calf.
Sometimes five or six of the calves will race each other to the end of the pasture and back again. They will zip by, following the unwritten rule of childhood: Go as fast as you can for as long as you can. Running for the sheer joy of it seems to the only objective of their playtime.
By now even the helicopter moms have given up chasing their babies. They will graze peacefully knowing that when baby gets tired and hungry, she’ll seek out the “milk machine.” At night, Mom will lie close to her baby, keeping the little one warm and safe.
Summertime is enchanting. Water stays liquid, fingers don’t freeze, grass is abundant, and the calves are delightful. Just like human babies, these calves will grow up – too fast – and someday be parents themselves, but for now it’s enough to watch them tumble and race in the sunshine.
Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visitors are welcome to at the Loudon farm during farm store hours: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Thursday, 2 to 6 p.m.