Adoptions in the Bovine World

Hello readers! I hope your Saint Patrick’s Day treated you well! Mine was spent back in the office after a week at the ranch for my annual spring break calving vacation. The cows obliged by keeping me very busy, and about two-thirds of them have calved already!
We’ve had two sets of twins so far. At our outfit, twins are always named. You can check out some of the names from past years here and here.
The first set was born to a 3-year-old cow we call Nancy, because her mother was called Fancy. Of course, the calves – both heifers – needed names in this vein, so they are Chancy and Francie.

The second set was born to a 4-year-old cow, number 0212. These calves, also heifers, were sired by a bull we call Duke, so I christened them with the duchess names of Kate and Fergie.
Two other cows had calves that were born dead, so we set about the task of assisting with some bovine adoptions…probably more commonly known as grafting. It can be done a variety of ways, but here’s how we do it. The more aggressive twin is selected to be the adopted calf and penned away from their dam for a couple hours to get a little hungry. Meanwhile, the pelt of the dead calf is skinned and will be put on the adopted calf like a coat. The most critical part of this process is for the rear end of the calf to be covered with the pelt. We help the calf nurse their new mom in the chute to keep us all safe. Then the cow and calf are put in a small pen together and the magic (hopefully) happens!
Ideally, while the calf is nursing the new mom, she turns her head to smell the pelt and is convinced that this is her calf. Usually the pelt can be removed in a day or less. Using the dead calf’s pelt may seem like a strange practice, but I think it’s kind of similar to organ donation in a way.
I’m pleased to report that both grafts were successful! Here is Fergie with her new mom, number 1105.
And here is Chancy with her new mom, number 02.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the bovine adoption process on our ranch. In the coming weeks, I’m going to start a new series that will follow two different heifer calves throughout the year!
Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

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