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Nature bounces back: Calf in kitchen recovers
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Late last week, Martinsville Bulletin reporter Debbie Hall woke to find a calf in her kitchen, where it was warming up after being found nearly frozen. Since then, the calf has been reunited with its mother (above) and is enjoying life outside the kitchen. (Contributed photo)
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The calf in the kitchen ... was reunited with her mother within several hours of her birth.

We found her last week after she was born on one of the coldest nights of winter. Half frozen and only barely alive, she was caked with ice and hardly breathing. We tended to her in the kitchen, of all places.

She now is eating, running around in the field and thoroughly enjoying life. To see her now, one would never guess that she had such a rough start.

However, the story doesn’t end there.

After I posted photos of the calf on social media, a friend posed several questions about cows in general.

For instance, she asked why bulls and cows are allowed to breed if the cows will birth in winter (and if financial gain is a factor); why they are not kept in a barn; and so on.

The questions were thoughtful, and they deserved a response.

There is a saying that good fences make good neighbors. That may be true among people, but a fence does little to deter a bull intent on getting into a field of cows in season.

Honestly, it seems that the only talent our bovine friends have is the ability to get in and out of fences — and they do so with amazing regularity.

One field of cows works together to lift the gate off its hinges. They then set off to visit a neighbor’s bull, graze grass on the other side of the fence, or take a leisurely stroll down the road. Regardless, their outings are at the worst possible times. And a bull in a field of cows in season can make a whole lot of hay in an extremely short time.

Keeping expectant cows in a barn (or even a barn lot) is a challenge, too. They will run you over or go through another fence to get to ... (fill in the blank because it could be anything) ... a silage pit, a roll of hay that looks better than the one they have in the barn lot, or whatever. In a cow’s estimation, the grass is always greener — and the hay/silage is always sweeter — on the other side of any fence.

Farming isn’t lucrative. The hours are long, the work is hard, there are no sick days or vacations (unless you can manage a long weekend, and even then someone must be lined up to check on the critters).

Even under the best circumstances, death is inevitable. We lost several cows, calves and one pretty good bull to a lightning strike last summer.

We try to time the births so the cows are calving in April. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out that way. When it does, it’s much easier. It’s easier on the cow and the calf; no one has to go out two or three times in the wee hours of the morning (and in all kinds of weather) to check on them, and you’re almost guaranteed not to end up with a calf in the kitchen.

So, why do people farm? Why do they care for and love animals that they know might be lost in a moment’s notice? Why do they plant crops, nurture and tend them, all the while knowing that the whole field could be lost at Mother Nature’s whim?

The answers vary, depending on the individual.

A few days ago, when the outside thermometer registered well below the freezing mark, my teenage daughter went into a hay- and muck-filled barn stall to lie down beside an aged and ailing horse.

She stayed there a long time, coming inside only briefly to warm up before returning.

When asked her why, her response was fast, simple and sincere: “I want her to know someone loves her,” she said.

That perhaps is the only answer. You either love farming or you don’t.

If you do love it, there are times when you must look for the good, even if that means looking past a calf in the kitchen.


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