Summer Calves

When human babies are born, it’s easy to see if the baby is a girl or a boy. When calves are born, not so much. Many an Old-Time Farmer has held off on naming a calf until someone can observe the calf peeing. Confused? It’s okay, I’ll explain:

When a calf is born, it’s belly button is swollen and it’s tough to see (from a distance) if the baby is a male a or female. Remember, beef cattle are not domesticated animals. They roam their pastures – and the mamas are fiercely protective of their young.

Well, we had three calves born on our farm this summer. Hilde was a bottle calf and therefore easy to confirm her as a female. It took a few days to confirm Hazlenut as a female, but we eventually saw her pee. That last calf – whom we later named Waldo – sure was tricky though.

Waldo was well hid. As best we can tell, he was five days old by the time we saw him. And being five days old, he was already romping and frolicking, not standing still or struggling to stand on four legs – which would have made it easier for us to see underneath.

There was always a question about Waldo. “I don’t see any balls. That last calf MUST be a female.” “No, I think I saw some wobbly bits. I think it’s a male.”

Waldo, and the others, were born in June. By early July they were all down the road in the summer pasture. One evening we found only two calves in the pasture. Thinking a coyote got a calf, Mike took the four wheeler down to the pasture and methodically cross-crossed all 14 acres. And found nothing. No calf; no sign of loss. Just nothing.

Three days later Mike tells me, “I think we should name Daisy’s calf Waldo.” Wait? Daisy’s calf? “Are you kidding me? You found the missing calf?!” “Well, as I was driving past, I found him by his mama, up by the fence . . . .” Yes. Waldo is exactly the right name for this little guy.

Except . . .

You really need to watch this video clip I took of the cows in late September. (I take a LOT of videos of my cows — but I’m dorky, and I can’t film well, so I don’t often share them. But this video? This one needs to be shared):

See what I mean? Over two minutes of me watching my cows, while Zeke is CLANKING the chain on the gate making all kinds of racket. But did you happen to watch to the end? When my four-month old male calf peed? When “he” peed out the back end? Yeah. That’s not how males pee.

So, being born in 2020, we need to rename Waldo to something that starts with an “H.” I suggested Haggity (from the tv show “Worst Witch”) but that was not well accepted. We now call Waldo “H’Waldo.”

Four months in and I finally figured out that Waldo is a girl. It’s like I tell me children, and my students, and all my friends: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at others. So, come laugh with me

A Side Note: It’s common practice to name or number cows according to their birth year. On our farm we name the breeders by birth year (anyone born in 2020 starts with H (Hilde, Hazelnut and now H’Waldo), Daisy and Dolly were born in 2016, etc). All feeders (not kept for breeding) are named food-like names (Sir Loin, Chuck, etc).

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