Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Memory: Bottle Babies

(For 2013, I've decided to write a weekly post entitled, Monday Memory, where I'll tell about something I remember. It could be something I remember from childhood, or maybe from just a few years ago. Because this blog serves as a life repository, I figure I need to extend the stories to include the past as well as the here-and-now.)

When I was a teenager, my dad decided we should raise bottle calves. He learned of a local dairy that sold their bull calves inexpensively, and thought our family could raise them, feed them to finish, and sell them when they were nice and fat.

Baby calves are so stinkin' cute when they're little. They are active and curious and will lick and suck anything, including fingers, a stray hat, a belt loop, or even each others' ears.

We probably had close to 100 calves come through our place over the years. Every single one was given a name, plenty of hand-fed milk replacer, and all the care a calf could ever want. Unfortunately, sometimes we'd lose a calf to illness, and others would simply fail to thrive. It was a challenge to get up early every single morning to feed the eager babies, as well as keep their pens clean, and make sure the animals stayed as healthy as possible.


When I went to college, I left the baby calves behind in the care of my younger brother and sister. (In all honesty, both of them were better, more patient calf raisers than I ever was.) I haven't fed a bottle baby since that time.

This year, at the Northwest Washington Fair, there was a great baby animal exhibit. We caught it at the perfect time - feeding time - and Lana got to feed a bottle calf with the help of one of the exhibitors. She absolutely loved it, and requested to have her own calf at home to feed every day.
I don't know if she's quite ready for that responsibility at a mere three-years old, but we'll probably have the raising-bottle-calves-conversation in a few more years. Until then, I have enough bottle baby memories to get me by.
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