Cow Whisperer

Four years ago in November I rescued a young calf. She belonged to a herd from a nearby farm that occasionally strays on to the field in front of our house. Her mother had possibly given birth to her in the same field, as weeks before I remember hearing some unusual and painful ‘moos’ that could have been cow labour pains.

The calf turned up near our house, peering into the neighbour’s trash. Her face and shoulders were black and she had a white birthmark on her forehead, and a body in black and white. She was young, walking unsteadily and slipping and almost falling on the cement of the road. As I approached her she edged away. I looked around for her mother but she was definitely alone. I put the dogs, who were not sure what to make of this oversized visitor, inside the house and came back with a container of water. She came closer to our gate and I offered her a drink. She tried to suck my hand and she was able to lap somewhat clumsily, but gratefully. She was obviously very much a nursing calf.

It was going to be dark soon and I felt my motherly instinct kicking in. Not expecting her to follow, I opened the front gate and walked up slowly towards the house. She did not follow, but she did not wander off either. I went inside for one of the dog leads. I thought that if I could get her inside the dog pen then she would be safe until I could contact the neighbouring farm. The dog pen in question had been made using about a quarter of our two-car garage with a door to restrain our dogs from wandering when we were not home.

The calf allowed me to put the dog lead around her neck and I led her up the driveway to the dog pen. The last few steps were tricky, as she began to be a little nervous but she eventually clopped through the low door and was secured. I wondered if it would be okay to give her regular cows milk. By now my husband had returned home and quickly assumed his fatherly duties. He fetched some milk from the fridge and put it inside a plastic container. He went inside the pen with her and held the container out to her. She lapped very quickly and untidily, but she soon finished the entire contents. I was outside the pen and I put my hand through the fencing to pat her and she began sucking on my finger. She may not have realised that my finger was not an udder.

We were able to reach the nearby farm and yes, they were missing a young calf. About half an hour later, an elderly man turned up driving a car. He may have had one too many drinks. Grateful to have located her, he proceeded to put the calf in the back seat of his car! We stood by, stunned, but soon they were off, back home to the farm, and to mother.

We received a thank you phone call later and an offer of some milk from the farm. I looked out for my calf, but I did not see her again, until she was an adult.

The herd take wandering journeys across from their farm to greener pastures from time to time, and that brings them nearer to the field in front of our home. I look for my calf, now a grown cow. There are 2 black and white cows in the herd and I believe she has to be one of them.

Just today on my dog walk, I came upon them again, this time they were very close to the pathway where I was headed. The bull of the herd stepped forward and positioned himself to block me from going any farther. I stood my ground and eventually he moved off, seeing that I was not a threat to the herd. I wonder if he sensed that I was a calf whisperer …

The Calf in our dog pen

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