I’m not the best at horseback riding, I’m not always the best help during branding season, or the toughest, but one thing I do know how to do is love and care for animals. Living on a ranch can be hard, and frustrating, and truly heart-breaking at times… but this right here, this is what makes this way of life worth it! This baby calf finally drinking from a bottle this morning! Let me tell you this little guy’s story.
This baby’s mama is crazy with a capital C! Her bag (utters) had swollen up and were too big for the baby to nurse when he was born, so Riley and Dad decided they needed to try to milk her. That was a fiasco within itself, because she not only didn’t want them near her or her baby, but she charged them both! Like I said, CRAZY. They were able to milk her, and used the milk to drench the calf so it would get it’s nourishment. For those of you who aren’t familiar with drenching, it’s a way to administer liquids to a calf through the mouth using a drench bottle. A drench bottle has a long tube on it and you have to guide the tube into the calf’s mouth, through the esophagus into the stomach. It takes skill and patience. It doesn’t hurt the calf in any way, but it’s much harder than just simply giving it a bottle. After two days of driving out to the ranch and feeding the baby, hoping he’d nurse his mama, we realized it was time to bring him up to the house, so we could feed him more easily and more often since he didn’t seem to be nursing.
Now, let me tell you, when we went out to feed him, we were in one of Riley’s work pickups, a single cab, 90-something Chevy flatbed. We also had taken both girls with us, Ponga one of our Mini-Aussies, and Charlie our blue-heeler (they love running around at the ranch.) One can probably imagine my surprise when Riley said, “We’re going to take him back to the house with us…tonight.” “Tonight?” I said, trying to figure out if he was joking. “Tonight,” he said. Mind you, we do not have a trailer,and it’s a flatbed pickup, this could only mean one thing, that calf was riding shotgun!
We decided I should drive, so Riley could hold the calf, and the girls would just have to pile in and we’d hope for the best. Riley got the calf in, holding it across his lap, luckily at this point, the calf didn’t have real high energy, and was pretty docile, so he gladly laid there. Now here’s where it got tricky, though Ponga & Charlie have fun playfully chasing and barking at the cattle, they were in no hurry to get up-close and personal with this little fella in the tight corners of our single cab. We finally got Ponga in the seat and Riley gets her to sit down beside him, while holding her collar, then I got Charlie to jump in the floorboard and I got in as fast as I could behind her so she couldn’t jump back out as she had several attempts before that. About that time, the calf decides it’s time to…how do I put this…relieve himself a bit, and let me tell you, he had all four of us, rushing our noses to the open widows! Charlie was about in my lap trying to get her nose out the window, and Ponga was climbing behind my back, all while I was trying to drive to get this calf to it’s new pen at the house. Had it not been such a crazy situation, I would have tried to snap a picture of all the chaos. Definitely a moment I won’t forget! From that moment on we knew this calf’s name would be Pepé Le Pew.
We already have one bottle calf, Pete, so Pepé already had a friend to room with here at the Ponderosa. Pete was bigger when his mama died, and he was already drinking water out of a trough, so we just mix the milk and pour it in a trough for him and he’s good to go.
The next morning Pepé was still weak enough that he didn’t have the energy or know-how to take a bottle, so once again Riley had to drench the poor guy. This morning when I woke up, I was determined to help Pepé drink out of a bottle, I knew it’d be easier and more enjoyable for him to take his milk this way. I mixed 2 bottles and headed out to the calves. I was happy to see Pepé up when I got there, glad to see he was gaining energy. It took several tries, but I finally got the bottle in his mouth and pushed his little nose and chin together like he was sucking and in seconds he understood and drained the whole bottle! I was so happy I could’ve cried. The picture above is of success and pure happiness! Pete slurped at his trough, and Pepé finally learned to take a bottle. It made it all worth it.