I have always had a soft spot for animals and, to tell the truth, that spot used to be softer than it is now. I firmly believe in the will of mother nature; her ability to make life strong, to tempt fate, then to sway it. I have seen this with animals many times before….sometimes fate takes over, sometimes you take over fate….it’s a fine line. Take, for instance, the increasing inability of certain dogs to mate and give birth naturally. Should DVMs continue to offer AIs and C-Sections to breeders of these certain breeds, even though evolution would have fully wiped them out by now? The same scenario exists in the production of our everyday food supply. Why don’t we trust cattle to grow at their natural rate, to produce milk at their natural level? Why do we feel the need to intervene with abnormal, intensive feeding operations and increased growth hormone and antibiotic use? As a natural/pro-organic farmer, I have to extend this philosophy to everything I do….even if it costs me.
As a mother, it can be hard to watch another mother (be it cow, dog, or human) go through the process of losing an offspring. I have seen a dog eat her first-born pup alive, a goat walk away from a healthy, freshly dropped kid, and a cow urge time to stand still with her over a sickly calf. I have seen many different ideals of ‘motherhood’ play out, and yet I still trust in the purpose of it. This was put to the test this weekend. Our cow birthed a calf who was early enough to warrant attention. Luckily, we were able to pull him, tube-feed him, and send him back to Momma with a sparkle in his eye. Then he spent two-thirds of the day sprawled out in the paddock; weak, lifeless, apathetic. Had we put too much faith in mother nature?This was the hardest and most rewarding part of my day; putting our trust in mother nature…in motherhood. When we put the calf back out to pasture with his Momma, we felt confident in his new-found spark for life. Then after a few hours of lifeless interactions, we decided we needed to pull him again. We tried using the same method as before (coaxing Goldie away with a bucket of treats and some beautifully leafy, straight alfalfa flakes), but they didn’t work. Scottish Highlands are notoriously protective of their young, and Goldie was no exception to this. Then we considered options that, we ultimately decided, would stress Momma cow to the breaking point or beyond….something we weren’t really willing to risk. So we made a judgement call; to trust in the instincts of this old-world breed of cattle, to leave fate in the hands of mother nature, to trust in the nature of mothers.
It’s really still too early to tell. But as I check on calf and momma at the last light of day, he is up on his *still* unreliable, lanky legs, searching out one of her teats. They are too full at this point, will he be able to pull anything of use from the grossly engorged source of his life-blood? Again, I take a deep breath and fall into this premise that instinct will prevail. The calf will continue to suckle in search of the source of that sweet smell that floods his nostrils and promises inner warmth. The cow will stand for it, will allow her milk to drop in spite of the pain and discomfort offered by the nursing calf. I will trust in this process that has allowed for the continuation of this species. I will bow to fate if she does not rule in my favor. As I said before; it’s really still too early to tell.