"Honey, Let's Be Ranchers"
We had rented this 80 acre farm for five years, and other than owning two ponies, a small flock of chickens, a few short goats & having the hay baled, you wouldn't exactly call us Real Farmers.
In the back of my mind, I was considering the fact that a cow is a BIG animal. One that ate alot, one that required sturdy fences, (which at the time, we didn't have), one that, with the slightest mis-step, could ruin your future career as the next Ginger Rogers. Unless you picked them up at a sale barn, they were expensive. Even then, you weren't getting a bargain, as the cattle at a sale barn were generally just some other farmer's culls. And besides, cattle, selling at 57 cents a pound at the time, didn't seem like the best investment we could make with our scarce funds. I knew alot of people with cattle, but not too many who made much money with them.
And so, like the loving, supportive wife that I am, I answered "Get serious", or words to that effect.
He was. In fact, he told me that the deed was done. He'd already bought the first one, and needed my truck to haul it home.
Curious about what kind of cow would fit in the bed of a pickup, I agreed, but I was going to go along for the ride. In fact, the whole family piled in so they too, could witness the aquisition of this wondrous beast.
We'd already discussed the fact that this was not going to be a pet, just "dinner on the hoof " so to speak, and we passed the time trying to pick out a suitable name to call it. While we discussed various names & cow facts , I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like. (Angus?, Hereford?, Limousin?, maybe a crossbreed, I'd heard they grow fast.) My curiousity was soon satisfied, as we turned into a dairy just outside of nearby Asher.
"A milk cow? You bought a milk cow?", I was incredulous, as this was the man who would forget to take out the trash, even when it was right by the door. Selective memory perhaps. At any rate, the thought of him milking a cow twice a day was, well, unthinkable.
Laughing, he said, "Oh no Honey, I bought a bull calf. He's three days old today, and we're going to bottle feed him."
That certainly solved the mystery about how it would fit in the truck, & what it would look like. My mind was stalled, trying to picture us raising a bull - did this mean I could never wear red again?
Mike waved to the farmer, who was making his way through a herd of large Holsteins to meet us as he parked.
As he got out of the pickup, the questions began forming; Weren't we going to eat him? Is this the same man who said Longhorns were too tough to mess with? What did he think a dairy calf was going to be like? I may not have known much about cows, but I did know that a dairy cow was a lanky, boney beast. And what was this buisness about bottle feeding? How were we going to buy enough milk? Just how big of a bottle were we talking about here?
He and the farmer exchanged a few plesantries, and marched off together in the general direction of what I assumed was the calving shed, while the girls & I waited, admiring all those BIG cows.
( I noticed that there were no bulls in sight, no doubt because the farmer wisely sold them to fools such as ourselves.)
We didn't have to wait long before they staggered back with a 90 pound black & white calf so large it looked half grown. I thought that maybe he'd changed his mind about this bottle feeding buisness and "traded up" for an older calf. On closer inspection, it was obvious that he was indeed, brand spanking new. Like all newborns, he was all legs, and they weren't too terribly coordinated. He and the girls were loaded up, and we headed for home.
A quick stop by the feed store for a calf bottle & milk replacer answered my question about both the milk (powdered), and the bottle size (2 quarts). Christened "Fajita", he was coaxed into the backyard because we felt he was just too young to go out in the barn by himself. We made him a nice little bed in the girl's playhouse, and there we were, the proud owners of our first calf.
Since then, Fajita has been joined by Top Round, T-Bone, Hammy, (for Hamburger), Briskit & Chuck. Somewhere along the way, we aquired Sis, a lovely heifer that we'll be keeping, and a set of twins, so tiny we call them Inky & Dinky. That's what my husband calls them, I call them Little Sis & Puny. (More about twins, and why you shouldn't get yourself a pair.)
All Holsteins. Why you ask? Because with the exception of Puny, they are healthy, and cheap.
Of course, they won't bring top prices when they are old enough to sell, but they are a fine for novice Cattle Barons such as us. They are lovely to see out in the pasture, the black & white of their coats standing out against the green grass. And since they are all "bottle babies", they are probably the tamest little 'herd' around.
Sometimes I think a little too tame, as even the biggest of them will happily suck on your fingers, or your whole hand, if you don't watch out. We refer to it as Num-Num. They'll roll their eyes back in total bliss, and slobber you like it's nobody's buisness.. You just have to keep an eye on their tails; when they stop wagging them, it means they are beginning to wonder where the milk is, and are about to try to "punch it down." It's natural reaction, as this is how they would convince their Mamas to "let down" the milk, but coming from a 350 pound steer, it can be quite a jolt.
Even a young calf can knock a bottle out of your hands, sending it flying if you don't keep a good grip on it.
(Just a little something FYI, if you ever find yourself with a big calf who wants Num-Num.)
Overall, they have been, and continue to be, if not wildly profitable, then at least an education.