April 22, 2018
We've had heifers in early labour try to steal calves, but never a cow that has lost her calf. Rebekke had what appeared to be a healthy bull calf one afternoon. All seemed well - it was relatively warm out, the calf was dried off and and up trying to nurse quickly. An hour later things turned south. The calf couldn't get up and was in obvious pain. We brought it in, but were unable to save it. In hindsight, we should have taken the body back out to Rebekke so she could mourn properly.
The next morning, Baby Pearl had a healthy, lively heifer calf. Later that day, she just happened to take it to the exact spot we took Rebekke's calf from. Rebekke hustled over there, quite sure it was her calf (we've talked previously here about cattle having excellent spatial memory). Instead of fighting over the calf (as we'd expected any cow, especially a Highland to do) they both just decided co-parenting would be alright. The heifer, Flossie, nurses from both cows. The cleanest and most protected calf in the pasture - and will have no excuse not to come in with an exceptional weaning weight!
We could anthropomorphize and say that these two cows are altruistic, cooperative, even generous in spirit. Truth is, it likely has more to do with instinct. That spatial memory, hormones running high and the fact that Rebekke has a higher position in the fold than Baby Pearl (though both are mature cows). Any which way, it was a win, win - and a happy little ending.