There Be Calves Here

The dairy farmer finally called. He had four male calves we could buy, between the ages of one day old to seven days old. These guys are babies. The farmer suggested we keep them in individual pens for while. This wasn’t what I had in mind. I pictured the little guys romping through the pasture, chasing each other in the sunshine, not locked in individual pens in the barn.

The farmer explained that the sucking instinct in calves is strong, VERY strong, and since they only get fed a bottle 2-3 times a day, they will look for something else to suck, and this, unfortunately, ends up to be each other.

They suck each other? I didn’t get it. Their ears? Their tails? Their…. oh…got it.

We spent yesterday afternoon building individual pens.


Then we put lime on the ground, then pitched straw for bedding.

We put the panels on the pickup truck and Melissa drove 10 miles to pick them up. Each little guy was carried into his own personal pen.


We’ve been feeding bottle lambs for years; the process is the same for calves, it’s just the scale that’s different. A newborn lamb might eat most of a bottle in one day; A newborn calf is going to eat three of the gigantic bottles (with gigantic nipples) on the left.



Not only do the large bottles, which hold half a gallon, take both hands, but you need both hands to hang on. There is some serious draw on that bottle.

Meet the boys:

“Hi, I’m Number1. I know I look innocent, but believe you me, I wasn’t born yesterday…. Oh, wait, yes I was. I was born yesterday!”


“I’m Number 2. I’m a few days old, and like to hop a great deal. They tell me we’ll be out of these pens in a few days for some serious hopping.”


“I’m Number 3. I like long walks, listening to music, and sucking. I really like sucking.”


“I’m Number 4, and unlike those other three, who look like deer because they’re Jerseys, I’m a Jersey/Holstein cross. I’m 7 days old, and butt against the bottle for all I’m worth. Sometimes the women holding the bottle curse and moan about how much it hurts to have the bottle butted into their stomachs. Tough cookies.”

And finally, back at the house is a 5-month old puppy, who thinks she’s old news now because of the calves.


She’s not.

15 thoughts on “

  1. Awwwwww! I WANT MY (own) COW!!! Wahhhh! But, I hesitate to ask . . . what are they for? I’m thinkin’ . . . veal?

    P.S. Yes, nice to see pictures of you two, too! (You two, too??!)

  2. Zan, you need to clean your computer screen…it’s affecting your vision!

    CM, the calves are here for, yes, a dose of cuteness, but we have so much grass that it’s a shame to let it go to waste. So they’ll be harvesting grass all summer, eating hay and a bit of grain for energy over the winter, then back on grass next summer.

    If all goes well, 18-24 months from now we’ll take orders and sell about 1600 pounds of tasty beef from animals raised humanely and sustainably. End of commercial.

  3. cjw,

    We do enjoy having visitors, but if we aren’t careful, we could easily find ourselves spending hours every week in the non-paying business of giving tours!

    That’s why we give tours to people who buy lamb from us, or who are willing to pitch in and help for a few hours…

    We’ve got some MAJOR badger holes to fill, so if you’re willing, come on down! (These things are so big that when I start mowing the vineyard in a few weeks, I could easily disappear into one… Well, okay, slight exaggeration…)

    I’m thinking of having a “badger- hole-filling” party!

  4. Birdie,

    You got that right. A friend said the exact same thing when she saw the puppy: “You guys are toast.”

    I can’t even begin to list the number of house rules we’ve broken with this little charmer.

    The other two dogs, whom we love to pieces but have banned from the bedroom because of dog hair and snoring and farting while asleep (I mean the dogs, of course), are stunned to see the little one allowed into the bedroom. Their facial expressions communicate their thoughts: “What the #$*@*? Why does Pipsqueak get to break all the rules?

    We don’t have a good answer for that, other than that we’re toast when she peeks at us from under those eyebrows.

  5. The work-for-tours policy sounds reasonable enough. But…don’t badgers belong in Wisconsin??

    BTW..B&N is featuring the Carnivore book on the “New Nonfiction” table, now! 🙂

  6. Catherine, just finished your new book “Compassionate Carnivore” thank you for a realistically written book. Even though I don’t eat meat at this point in my life doesnt mean I can’t promote this book to my meat eating friends. This book is more Lifestyle then dietary choices. And I agree that if your not a player in the game then your being played with. The very virtue of my choice announces my presence and informs my intentions to myself. I’m tired of being told before we go out with friends that you must watch what you say “no politics or religion” well what the hell I’m I going out for? I love to talk and hear people talk about ideas. And not just the ones I want to hear but, the ones that makes me shrink or angry or sad. Because it is at that very point that I must make a choice, disengage and remained angry or whatever, or cool my jets and listen to what is really being said and not what my screen is letting through. In your book there is a discussion going on back and forth, that level below eaters and non-eaters of meat that they both stand upon and share, COMPASSION Common Passion. I love passionate people when they are guided by their reason. Otherwise they are just hands and arms waving above their heads running around in a circle. Like this response I’m writing. In closing Love the book, in June it will be our Store pick of the month, even the District Manager wants to read it. I feel like I need to say something about your post. Yes they are cute. And thanks for the time you take out of your day to do these post.

  7. Bookboy,

    Wow. Thanks so much for your thoughts. That would be amazing if my book could get carnivores and vegetarians talking—we might find we have more in common than we think.

    Whatever the topic, I like the idea of people finding more ways to connect with each other instead of reasons to ignore, disconnect, or berate one another.

    Store pick of the month? I should come sign some copies!

  8. Cute yes! But I remember even now (45 years later) getting up in the middle of the night to feed calves (Jersey calves). I used a bucket with a big nipple on it and just hauling it down to the barn was a chore (for a 12 year old). Then, of course, there was the nightly calf butting the bucket act.

    So I’ll think of you if I wake up in the middle of the night tonight!

  9. Ugh, no midnight feedings for us. But that butting thing is getting old. So we’re working on switching the calves from bottles to buckets. Ack. We’re making progress, though—will soon post photos of the bucket calves!

  10. I love your blog and I can’t wait to get your book. I read some of your previous posts and I can tell you, you are a very talented writer, very funny… I was getting excited reading about the meat you were going to sell in the future and then I saw that you had to pick it up 🙁 I live in South Florida! I have been looking for a local supplier of meat from animals humanely and sustainably raised and I have not found any yet. I do belong to a CSA and hopefully they will offer that in the future.

    Looking forward to reading more and sharing it with my children.

  11. Carmen,

    It’s so frustrating that there are parts of the country without farmers. Chicken Mama in northern MN has the same problem.

    My sister lives in Jax, so the next time I come to visit…No, it might be hard to bring frozen lamb on the plane with me.

    Keep trying to find a meat source—don’t give up!

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