Violet is three months old as of last Sunday, and a sturdy, healthy calf. At this age, she’s about the equivalent of a human toddler, with typical toddler behaviors – easily distracted, the occasional temper tantrum and “forgetting” lessons she’s already learned. She’s up to about 150 pounds, which is enough to be ouchy when she steps on your foot during the feeding process. We went from the bottle to a bucket with a calf nipple on it about five weeks ago, as she decided that playing “Pull the Nipple off the Bottle” was a really fun game.
Although she had been nibbling at bit at hay before her mama died, she seemed to forget how in the stress and thrash of the aftermath and wanted to focus exclusively on milk. If she had been with her mother or the herd, she would be learning to graze by imitation. Competition also fosters eating behavior, which is why you always put out at least one more pile of hay than you have cows. That way the critters on the bottom of the totem pole have a place to go when a more senior cow crowds them out. Not being willing to get down on my hands and knees and chew hay for her education, I decided to borrow a goat from the neighbors. That worked very well – the first day the goat was there, I threw out some hay and Violet promptly lay down in the middle of the pile to keep the goat away from it. After a few days, she was competing well and had just about doubled her hay intake. Winter the goat went home after a three week stay, his job finished.
Leading lessons are progressing well, although she gets pretty excited when she sees the milk bucket coming and tries to drag the handler around. She stands tied very well and loves to be brushed. We’ll keep this routine going until she’s ready to wean from the milk, preferably no sooner than six months. She’s learned that when Mom goes out in the pen, she’s supposed to come to me – I want her in that habit rather than thinking that’s OK to make me chase after her.
All in all, things are going well in Violetland.