Our farm’s intense dedication to animal nutrition began the third day after our cattle arrived. We spent the previous weeks preparing their paddocks, running water lines, cleaning up fences, and sourcing minerals (salt, a balanced mineral mix, and kelp). We were hyper-dedicated to where and what our cattle would eat but we were about to discover that we had entirely neglected their nourishment.
Three days after they arrived, one of our heifers calved. For a short moment, Morgan and I were overcome with joy—this was the first calf born on the farm and we named her Nelly (we live in Nelson County, Virginia). Cattle eat their placentas after birth and we spent the day eagerly watching in anticipation. But the placenta never dropped; it just hung there, suspended from the heifer’s back end.
Although a “retained placenta” is nothing in itself to worry about, the real problem was that, in retaining her placenta, our heifer’s confused hormones stayed her colostrum and milk supply. For two days, Nelly lacked the vital nourishment her young body so desperately needed.
We were advised to phone the vet and they recommended confinement and then three doses of antibiotics, to fight any bacterial infection that may or may not present itself. Morgan and I felt paralysed. We were only three days into cattle farming and the vet was already on the phone threatening antibiotics. Moreover, they were scolding me for not purchasing a head gate before we purchased the cattle. How can anyone raise natural animals without the ability to confine them against their will?
We were lost, tired, and desperate but we were about to stumble on something truly magical. Perhaps emotional depletion is the prerequisite for truly humble observation; perhaps, exhaustion-based humility is the best place to truly witness the true magic of our natural world.
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