As a youth, I always thought I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian. (Don’t worry, college chemistry resolved that dream.) I have always loved all things agriculture, animals, and doing my best to improve the lives of farm animals and livestock.
When I was in preschool, I loved to follow Dad around at the dairy and assist with our veterinarian/nutritionist when she came for herd checks and farm calls. I learned things beyond my years, including reproduction via artificial insemination, and was often caught sharing such info with my preschool class. I always enjoyed working with the animals and learning the science behind it.
One of my favorite novels to read was James Harriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” It was full of true tales of his experiences as a vet in England. I’ll always credit his book for my learning of the term “galoshes!”
Reading his book, I always thought “All Creatures Great and Small” referred to the range of animals that he worked with in his vet adventures. Maybe that is how he meant it?
Recently on my family’s dairy farm I experienced some tough days. Georgia was the first Red Holstein born on our farm. Oh, she was beautiful. I brought friends home from UGA to see her. I took photos of her to share with friends, family, and social media. I was so excited for this little red heifer. Little did I know, she would give me a run for my money.
My dad, my sister, and I tried to halter break her. We have halter broken many cows in our days of all kinds and temperaments, but we had never worked with a Georgia. As a calf, she was like trying to move a concrete wall. She was extremely intelligent, and even more stubborn.
Over time she became a beast. She became difficult to touch just because she knew you wanted to pet her. Fences? Oh, they were just a suggestion. She even grew so large we thought whenever she calved, it may be difficult for her to fit in the milking parlor.
At the beginning of December, she started calving with her first calf. First time heifers can take a long time and can have some difficulty. We gave her space to let her do her thing. Time passed and we repeatedly checked her. As time marched on, we saw little to no progression and knew it was time to have a vet step in.
In case you’re not familiar, it is very difficult in this area to find veterinarians that specialize in cattle. I called several with no luck or availability. We made the call to take her to the University of Georgia Large Animal Hospital.
After hours of manipulation and trying several options, it was decided it was in her best interest for euthanasia. We had done what we could for this great, stubborn animal.
On Christmas Eve, Dad informed us a cow had delivered a preemie calf at the farm. One of the tiniest calves he had ever seen. Considering the situation, we were all surprised when he told us she was alive. He had buried her into a bed of straw next to the mother for the night down in the pasture and would check on them both the next morning.
Christmas morning, I went to the farm to feed our baby calves. I was surprised to see that little calf up under the barn. She was so tiny! Maybe 10-15 pounds. After I finished feeding the other calves, I thawed some frozen colostrum to feed her. She sucked half of a bottle down like there was a prize to be had for cleaning her plate.
With calves like this, we learn not to get our hopes up as they typically don’t survive. However, she had a will to live like no other. Each day she drank her milk and she gained strength to stand, walk, and run on her own. She was very independent and quickly developed a party trick of peeing on you when you carried her around.
She was small, but she was sweet, and we cared for her just as we would any other calf. Honestly, she got prime treatment compared to others. Unfortunately, a few days after New Year’s when the weather drastically changed, her little body couldn’t handle the drastic shift. Even in prime conditions, premature calves have plenty of struggles to face. I was sad to learn of another small creature lost.
One may take away hardship and loss from these experiences, especially so close together. I had a bit of a different take hit me.
God calls farmers to care for their stock. He calls them to give every animal a fair chance at life. He calls farmers to give animals the best possible life that he/she can while they are a part of this world. While there are hard days and there are joyful days, God made farmers to care for “All Creatures Great and Small.”