He’s a special guy. His talents include being able to run fast, guzzle a bottle of milk, slobber on your leg and sweetly moo. Hoss may be one of the smallest calves we’ve ever seen, but he is currently the boss around here.
Hoss was born on a snowy day. His size was every bit as unusual as it was to have frozen precipitation on the ground here in Alabama. This miniature sized calf was found by Dustin, as he was checking over the cattle. Dustin realized that the calf was too small to survive the frigid overnight temperatures (19 degrees and a horrible wind chill). Also, unfortunately for Hoss, his mother was not able to produce enough milk to feed him. It was not a difficult decision to bring the little guy home with us.
In our years of raising cattle, I have never allowed bovine inside the house. That is where I always drew the line. No calves in the house. This little guy pulled my heart strings, though, and I quickly found myself searching for old quilts and sheets for him to sleep on. He snuggled up next to the washing machine in the utility room and enjoyed the warmth.
Raising a bottle calf isn’t easy. Survival is not guaranteed. First, you have to administer colostrum if the calf did not receive that nutrition from the mother. Colostrum is the “first milk” made by mammals. The baby needs the extra nutrition and antibodies that it provides in order to survive. In many cases, a baby calf will be unwilling to nurse a bottle by the time we rescue it. When this happens, we use something called a drencher. It has a flexible tube that places colostrum or milk directly down the calf’s esophagus. We think of it as a minimally invasive feeding tube. It allows the calf to receive nutrition and hydration, whether they feel well enough for food intake or not.
Thankfully, Hoss was willing to take a bottle. Due to his very small size (he weighed a shocking 35 lbs), he was was unable to drink very much at one time. We fed him small amounts, around the clock, to prevent dehydration. The little guy stayed in our utility room for a few days until the weather warmed up and he was able to eat enough to maintain his energy levels and keep himself warm.
He was as thankful to be outside as I was that he was no longer cuddling with my washing machine!
It has been well over a year since we have needed to raise a bottle calf. So, imagine our surprise when we learned we needed to raise another calf alongside Hoss. In a very unusual turn of events, Dustin brought home a second bottle calf one week after he brought home Hoss!
This time he rescued a heifer calf. Her mother was also unable to raise her, due to a structural problem with her udder. We haven’t named this little girl, yet, so stay tuned! Hoss is particularly glad to have a new play mate. His small size is even more obvious when he is next to his new, average sized buddy.
The boys are enjoying feeding and loving the calves. I’m sure the unusual collection of friends will make plenty of memories over the next few months. Me? I am chief bottle washer. But I really don’t mind. After all, who can say no to big eyes and long eyelashes?
Thanks for reading,