Fall on the Dot Seven Ranch can only mean one thing: calving season. We start calving about the end of August but this year was much different. About two weeks ago (end of July) my Mom was doing a routine herd check on a Friday morning when she noticed one of the first calf heifers going into labor. This was not a good sign and we were prepared for the worst.
Calves born an entire month early typically don’t survive. They are underdeveloped and much too small, not to mention the heat of the Central San Joaquin Valley is often far too intense for a newborn to handle.
Fortunately, the heifer had the calf without any complications. Step one was a success. Much to my Mom’s surprise, she also found the calf alive! We knew at this point that although we had a LONG way to go, we were going to do anything in our power to help this calf survive his unfortunate entrance into this world.
Not surprisingly, this calf was TINY. His hair was very short and coarse. His ears fit in the palm of my hand, a little bigger than the likes of a golfball. He was a tiny heap of bones with all the obvious signs that he should have baked a little longer.
First order of business was getting colostrum into him as soon as possible. We knew if there was any chance of him living it would be because of the colostrum and our intervention. My mom also administered (injected) some vitamins and minerals to give him a little extra boost. We call these our “weak calf shots” and they come at the recommendation of our veterinarian.
It was soon decided that Maximus would be his name. After all he needed something strong going into the hard battle he had ahead.
Maximus couldn’t drink from a regular bottle, the nipple was too big for his mouth. It was off to the feed store for a smaller goat nipple. And that was just the ticket. He drank a healthy amount of colostrum considering his size; that was when we started to think he had a chance.
The heifer was in a small pen in the coral that we use for these kinds of unexpected calving season scenarios. Shade, fresh food, & water were provided and after his feeding we put Max back with his mother.
For the next week-and-a-half trips were made morning and night to feed Max and try to see if the heifer had any milk. In the beginning, my mom would get about a quarter cup each feeding so we continued to supplement Max with the hopes that his mom would start producing much more milk soon. After all, she wasn’t supposed to calve for another month.
Slowly but surely everything progressed. Max got stronger. His mother’s natural instincts kicked in. Her udder filled out a little bit at a time. And Max drank less and less of the milk he was being fed.
At two weeks old, Max is no longer super wobbly, he bawls and play and kicks like a normal calf and his mother cares for him very intently. We are proud to say that this pair has moved to a larger pasture where he will continue to grow. We will monitor them closely for many weeks to come. And my mom still makes the heifer take Max to the shade every single day.
Sometimes, ranching isn’t easy but lessons are learned and the rewards far outweigh the sweat and tears. For more updates on Max follow my instagram @meetyourbeef or @thebeefboutique . I share updates on my stories often 🙂