Martha and Matilda-The Feedlot Pets
After I learned that bottle calves had been an option on the yard, I also learned that we currently had two. They are now around 400 lbs a piece, and eating on their own. When they get big enough, they will join another lot and become full-fledged members of the feedyard. I actually should have been able to pick them out much sooner, because I had been in a pen with them a few days ago. While there are many heartwarming aspects to bottle feeding a calf, there are a few negatives to bottle babies. One is that they are just plain goofy looking. They have very large barrel bellies. I asked why it was that they look so very odd, and was told that many bottle calves never really learn how to graze on feed like normal cows. They grew up being feed a bottle on human scheduling. When they graduate to real feed, they still are in the habit of gobbling up large quantities of feed at once, and then not eating until their next big, hurried meal. Some grow out of it eventually, once they watch other cows around them and realize that the food isn’t going to disappear with the feedtruck. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t seem to harm them. It just distends their bellies in a cartoonishly adorable sort of way.
One of the biggest negatives for us working on a feedlot is the fact that they do not follow normal cow rules. Just as I discussed with sick animals, any cow that doesn’t follow the Cow Rules is a royal pain in the butt. Bottle babies grew up being up-close-and-personal with humans. They are not afraid of us. They have no flight zone. And therefore, if you have to move animals like Martha and Matilda, it is nearly impossible. Walking towards them will not push them forwards. It makes them come gallivanting over to you and lick you like a puppy. While this can be very cute, it is absolutely useless when trying to work cattle. Also, after dealing with so many crazed animals that come after you with evil intentions, it can be alarming to have any 400+ lbs of animal barreling towards you.
Although they aren’t great for easy management, and the success stories of bottle babies are few and far between, I have found that the best therapy for a long, hard day is to visit pen 89 and wait for the red and black faces to come over for a head scratching. And nothing quite puts a smile on your face like a goofy, super-long tongue slobbering on your arm, or a curious nose snotting on your jacket.