Jan. 24, 2013
First-time mother cows and their calves spend the winter at the pasture outside our home. Mothers and calves identify one another through smell.
We’ve all seen the iconic image of a swooning adults watching newborns resting in their basinets behind the glass wall of the hospital nursery. The babies, only recently welcomed into the world, are oohed and awed over as they sleep, play and explore their new surroundings.
Baby calves rest in the straw outside our home. Calves, like small children, split their time between playing and resting.
With calving season in full swing at our farm, I am lucky enough to have a calving nursery of sorts right outside my front window. Our heifers – female cows that deliver their first calf this year – calve at our cattle facilities about five miles from our home. But after the calves are about a day old, mother and calf are moved to the pasture outside our house.
Mother cows are naturally very protective of their young. When I entered the pasture to capture a few pictures of the little ones, mothers quickly found their calves, making sure to keep me at a safe distance.
Before being allowed to roam freely, we hold the new mothers and their babies in a smaller pen for about 24 hours. Keeping the new mothers and calves confined allows us to keep a closer eye on them, ensuring everyone is doing well and the calves are up, playing and sucking mother’s milk.
Unlike humans that take a year or so to walk, calves are up on all fours within hours of being born. While they have the ability to walk, it usually takes a couple of days to master the art of running and playing. Watching the little ones learn how to navigate through their new world is one of the highlights of calving season. After only a few days, the calves are running, playing, climbing and exploring. It’s a rewarding site for my husband and I as it means we have successfully welcomed another new life into the world and another calf into our herd.
Calving will continue through February and March, which means we have a couple hundred more baby calves to welcome and enjoy and a couple of hundred new members of our family farm.