Jan 25, 2012

"How Do We Get Them from: 
HERE....... THERE?"
In the early weeks of June the weather had warmed enough that we could start to
"take out the cows".

We wanted to have it all accomplished before the haying season started at the end of the month.

The older cows were kind of "seasoned" professionals.  They could feel the change in the air and after a long winter of being in the barn,
 (warm and cozy as it is),
 we only had to unhook them,  open the doors and gates, lead them out,
and they were ready to roll!

The young calves, however, were a different matter.

They had been born indoors.
Their experience bank to that point had consisted of:

1. Being inside their mother (safe and warm),
2. Being in the birthing stall with their mother (also safe and warm),
3. Being in the secure calf box where two large bottles of warm milk were delivered to their tummies each morning and night along with no end of soft talk and petting (continuing the 'safe and warm' mode),
4. Being in Play Group with all their buddies to frisk with when they wanted to and snuggle with when they needed to (safe and warm AND fun).

Now suddenly they were haltered for the first time, however gently, and led out into the sometimes still-brisk early morning air,
 on their way to--  
who knows where or what!
(It was a total rodeo!)
In the late Spring we had been contacted by a  French high school student,
 Anthony Louvel. 
 He was looking for a five week internship on a Swedish ecological farm to fulfill his school requirements.  We filled out all the legal forms  e-mailed to us by his Headmaster and sent them back. We wondered how he would do, being  young and having somewhat limited English.  He had been raised on a very large dairy farm, so that was a plus and we hoped it would be a factor in having him feel at home and comfortable with us.  When he arrived he seemed quite shy and a little homesick.

 The first task at hand the next morning was taking out the   calves,   (talk about being thrown in at the deep end....), but at the beginning it felt like maybe it would be OK.  The baby calves seemed like they were going to co-operate....
 not a chance.....
The minute they were out the barn door those beasts headed in every possible direction but the right one.
Take a look at Gustav on the left side of the picture...he was barely keeping his balance with the calf at the end of the rope yanking him
 back and forth.

And then an amazing thing happened.
 With all hesitation falling victim to the inborn need of every male of the species to COMPETE, Anthony yelled in his French accent:
"We see who get there first!" 
And the race was on....

Anthony looked like he had it in the bag (or in the field) but suddenly his calf took a hard turn to the left and he had to fight to get it back on track.  

Meantime, Gustav and his calf had charged into the lead and made it through the first gate only to have  the calf break free and run through to points unknown, leaving Gustav scurrying from one end of the small field to the other in a vain attempt to catch it. 

 That allowed Anthony to leap into the breach with his savage after which he very magnanimously went over to help Gustav corral his and get it back where it was supposed to be.

In the end, both of them were laughing,  breathing very hard, and 
 calling it,
 a draw.

Finishing up the gates for the new training field.

It is so often said that one of the most valuable things about living the farm life, and there are many valuable things about it,  is that you are always facing a new challenge.  There is always a way to try and do it better.
For these small calves we wanted to try and do it better this year in providing them with an added step in the transition from being in the barn to being outside.  We understood that it is a big change for them spatially as well as in their diet. 
When they were in the confined area of the barn, after they had been weaned off the milk bottles, they had hay from the past year's crop, buckets of grain,  and fresh water every day. 
But when it was time to take them  outside they would be in a very large field with the lush green grasses of Summer all around.  They were only eight weeks old and that could be an adjustment for them in their surroundings as well as in their still young and sensitive stomachs.
We had learned that from previous years with the new calves. 
Before we took them out we made a much smaller "training field" with a finer gauge fence for increased safety and a stationary feeder that could hold a bale of hay.  We wanted to see if they would settle down better in a space that was a reduced size and 'self-police' with their eating so that their new-grass intake would be in better proportion.
It worked beautifully. 

We left them there for a week or so until they were more accustomed to being out. 

  That first day with Anthony was one to always be remembered. 
It confirmed once again that there is no language or cultural barrier that cannot be removed by working together side by side.
With the calves safely into their new training pen, the boys were ready for a hot shower, an evening snack and a bowl of homemade ice cream from our dairy. 

One thing we had learned for sure...
 Anthony was a gem. 
But even after that day, as successful as it was,  we could not have known how far-reaching the effect would be that this young man would have on our family and our farm.
 For the busy summer season that was unfolding he would make a major difference. 
We grew to love and appreciate this French farm boy who came to us at exactly the right time to move not only our baby calves, but us as well,
from here to there!

1 comment:

Julie said...

Love your blog! Elder Lopp says "Hi" I forward his emails to you. Do you get them? He is doing great and comes home in July. He loves Sweden and I'm sure he will be back.