On the Farm: Search for missing newborn calf ends happily

  • A Scottish Highlander cow, Laverne, bonds with her newborn calf. The calf’s father was a Hereford bull. Photos courtesy of Carole Soule

  • Laverne’s calf on the day she was born.

For the Monitor
Published: 6/20/2019 2:02:40 PM
Modified: 6/20/2019 2:02:30 PM

The day-old calf had vanished. Yesterday the black-and-white heifer had been up and walking, and her Scottish Highlander mom, Laverne, had been cooing and fussing over her. The next day the calf had disappeared. The strange thing was that Laverne did not seem upset.

Laverne and three other cows were enjoying the lush grass of a remote pasture in Canterbury. Charles McLaughlin, the land-owner, drove his four-wheeler around the field while I searched on foot. No luck. Eventually, we decided that she must’ve run through the fence into the woods.

The cows congregated in the back corner of the field. Thinking they might be near the missing baby, we started our search outside the fence in that area. After searching for an hour, I decided that the mother would be the best one to find her child. I put a halter on Laverne and led her out through the gate. She moseyed around, ate some grass, but seemed unworried about her missing baby.

When a calf strays, most mothers will call for them to come back. Laverne never mooed, not once. Didn’t she care? Some cows don’t. With her “Mother of the Year” award slipping away, we left Laverne outside the field, hoping she would call to her baby.

This was Laverne’s seventh calf. Her first, Curious Bleu, is famous for running off the day he was born. I even wrote a book titled The Curious Little Calf named Bleu, which described his encounters with a chipmunk, a groundhog, and coyotes. (Yes, the author made some assumptions.) Bleu had returned to his mom unharmed, and today he gives rides to little cowboys and cowgirls. We had to find Bleu’s new sister, so I reached out for help.

I enlisted a family friend and farmer Dick Piper. He is a hunter, and his “field smarts” have helped find other lost calves. After searching outside the fence, Dick said, “It’s possible she’s still in the pasture; some of this grass might be tall enough to hide in.”

Skeptical, but willing to take his advice, I joined him in a new search of the pasture.

“What color is the calf?” Dick asked.

Distracted and dismal, I said, “Black and white.”

“Well, there she is, right there,” said Dick. She was lying hidden in the tall grass. At first, I thought the calf was dead, but when we lifted her, she bawled. Mom heard her baby’s cry, and she and the other cows came running.

Laverne had been unconcerned all day because she knew right where the calf was sleeping. I’d mistaken her composure for indifference. Laverne had been trying (not very hard) to tell me, “Relax, I have everything under control.”

I guess I’m not that good at understanding “Moo-lish.”

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, milessmithfarm.com, where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grassfed beef. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)

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