Never knew I could love a Baby Cow, but I doJanuary 17, 2018 | 12:11pm
Never knew I could love a baby cow, but I do.
The night of January 5th was bitter cold. Single digit cold. Smells from a beef roast in the oven permeated my tiny studio that sits next to a barn on the farm. Chores were done, animals were in their stalls and the dogs were warm on their cozy beds. We all were settled in to endure another cold night, but that wasn’t going to be the case.
Evening checks on all the animals isn’t uncommon, like a parent checking in on their kids at night. A rustle in the pasture and the sounds of a longhorn mom grabbed our attention and had us peering into the partial barn area. We could see a petite figure of an animal and heard dejected cries that pierced my heart. Johnny was just born.
“Let Mother Nature do her thing, Randy,” and “Longhorns are hearty animals” was what I was being told as I gazed upon Johnny and an uninterested mom. My gut was screaming THIS IS NOT NORMAL and as my gut screamed to me, Big Red Momma (the mother’s name) walked away from her baby and joined the rest of the herd feeding on a hay bail. Johnny’s cries stopped as his placenta covered body turned into a glaze of ice.
Alone and in the dark, I picked up his frozen body and began to run while praying that God gave me the strength and keep him alive. The farmhouse was quite far away, and as I ran, as I stumbled and even as I dropped his body, I knew I needed a miracle.
“Please come help me,” I texted to a new farm friend of mine. “Hurry. I think he is dying.” Johnny was with me now in the farmhouse under blankets as I began to rub his body as hard as I could, trying to heat up his small frame. I was soon joined by my friend Debbie who came with a heating pad. We both continued to work on Johnny as I called for an emergency farm veterinarian, Dr. Lee.
His legs were so frozen that a block of ice felt warmer. His body was so cold. Now armed with a space heater, heating pad and more blankets we continued to try to save our calf. When Dr. Lee walked into the house, I thought I could exhale a little but that wasn’t the case, again.
Johnny didn’t register a temperature at first, but Dr. Lee immediately started saving his life from hypothermia and frostbite and as he worked on him he said words I will never forget, “We will need to go milk the mom for her colostrum.”
I truly thought the doctor was insane. Then I hear my friend say, “I will call my husband Dan to come help.” I blurted out, “HAVE YOU MET HER?” Come on, she is the bull you see in movies with horns even bigger. She isn’t a toy poodle. Knowing Johnny would die without his mother’s milk, I stopped joking and just said, “let’s do this.” Let’s lasso a giant red pissed off longhorn in subzero temps at night. Me, a gay urban wanna be cowboy.….me?
It was as hard and as impossible as I thought it would be, but Dr. Lee finally lassoed Big Red. I grabbed the rope, Dan grabbed the horns, and the Doc milked one angry cow. We did it! And as we walked back to the farmhouse I was christened, Rodeo Randy. I liked that.
Johnny couldn’t nurse on any bottle, from a calf bottle to a baby bottle. He was the smallest calf Dr. Lee has ever seen, and he lives on a cattle farm. Our baby was 1/3 the size of a normal calf weighing in at 30 pounds. After a tube feeding, Johnny was off to the ICU at the University of Missouri. His best chance of surviving.
I threw the roast in the trash. I just couldn’t eat it.
Days passed with some pretty dreadful updates at first. Then the news I was waiting for that he is ready to come home. Picking him up, I realized something. I loved him. I loved him no different from one of my dogs. I loved him as a family member. I loved him with all my heart.
Back at the ranch, Johnny seemed to do well at first, taking the bottle; he was happy. Then that suddenly stopped. He refused to suckle and sported a fever. Our hearts sank, and we all knew what we had to do – send him back to the University. As I write this, I know he is having good days and some bad ones. From ulcers to diarrhea, from suckling to not eating, his road to recovery will be long. When Johnny comes marching home this time, I pray it is for good! He will be raised by us here at the ranch, and God willing, he will be a therapeutic longhorn steer when he grows up. And yes, you guessed it, He will be one of my kids.
I love you, Johnny.
Now I need you, his medical costs are high so and for the ranch to continue to save lives please donate below, or you can join us here at the ranch for a special gourmet Valentines dinner, where Johnny will be present to say thank you. Click here to reserve your table now!
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