I’m going to go old school on you today. I’ve been thinking a lot about the bottle calves our boys raised when they were preschoolers. Actually, Jesse was little more than a toddler when he started. Chris got his first bottle calf when he was 3 going on 4. She was a calf out of a heifer his Grandpa Bastian had purchased for the feedlot. He went out to feed the cattle one morning and found the heifer calving. She was much too young and while they saved the calf, the heifer didn’t make it. He asked if we’d like the calf to raise as a bottle baby and so began a multi-year project of raising bottle calves. Jesse was mad he didn’t have a calf that year so the next year we made sure he got to raise one. Yes, he was only 2, but he took such great pride in being able to do it himself that we let him. We had a little board with two holes cut out that we mounted on the pen for feeding time. The boys would “help” me make the bottles, take them out to the barn, climb up on a bucket and put the bottle in the holder to feed the calves. What I didn’t realize back then was they were building many character traits with this daily ritual. They were learning a work ethic that many youth never learn. They were learning compassion and care for another living thing. They were learning to put others’ needs ahead of their own. They were learning to be the men God would call them to be.
Chris had one bottle calf make it back in the cow herd. Unfortunately, Jesse wasn’t so fortunate. We have grown attached to all the calves but the first one has a very special place in our hearts. She’s 17 years old now. She’s getting ready to have her 15th calf. Yes, you read that right. She’s NEVER missed having a calf and she’s NEVER lost her calf. A momma like that is hard to find. For the first 7 years, she had only bull calves. Then she had a heifer we named Wild Thing. She didn’t get to become a member of the cow herd. 🙂 After Wild Thing, she went back to producing bulls for a couple of years. The last bull calf she had, Chunky, went on to be a show steer. He won his class at the MO Block & Bridle and did quite well for the girl who bought him. Since then, Sassy has given us several heifers….most of which we’ve kept. Most have not been show heifers but nearly all have made great mommas. Last year, Jesse’s girlfriend, Brittany, showed a Sassy heifer. Her name is Y So Sassy. And last year, Sassy gave us a Hereford looking heifer. Chris wanted to sell her, but thankfully she didn’t sell and will get to stay in our herd also. I’ve been told that after Sassy raises this calf, she’ll be heading to the sale barn. Winter is really hard on her the last couple of years and we really don’t want to find her dead one day from old age. She’s been a tremendous asset and a real herd builder for Chris. AND she will be missed. She’s usually the first one to come to the feed bunk and the slowest moving when getting the cows up. She deserves a place of honor among our cows. She’s definately the cheapest cow we have on the place and her worth is far above the most expensive cow we have. I plan on getting some pictures of her and her calf this year. (I typed this yesterday and got home to find this…)
We still have bottle calves to raise, as I guess we always will as long as we have cattle. Last night Chris was feeding a bottle to one we’re weaning when the one who’s been weaned a couple of weeks came up to him. The weaned one (2-2M) wanted to suck on the bottle. Chris offered him his fingers to suck on. Apparently 2-2M wasn’t happy with that alternative and BIT Chris. When he came in the house to get his finger cleaned and bandaged (the calf’s teeth sliced his finger open), all I could think was that if Sassy had been that ornery, we may not have raised as many bottle calves. And then, once again I was thankful for Sassy and all the lessons learned by both boys with all of their calves. Both showed bottle calves until the August before they turned 8. They knew they could move on the steers and big heifers and were excited for the change. I pray that someday, they get to enjoy the bottle calf experience with their own little ones.