One of the cows has been wailing for the past day and this morning, upon counting the calves, P. realized that hers was missing, and that she’s been in a panic trying to call her back to her side. Born three weeks ago, the little one hasn’t been seen for the past day or two.
Her cry is a pretty heartwrenching sound. I don’t really know much about calves, cows or (let’s be honest) animal husbandry, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything I can do to make sure this calf makes it back to her mum. I worry we won’t see her again. And while I’m reminding myself daily not to anthropomorphize the cattle — not to attribute human personality or emotions to them (i.e. the cow isn’t bored, she doesn’t need my entertainment as she chews cud in the field) — hearing a mother cry for her calf (as I watch my child scamper about the mud puddles) is pretty hard to bear.
And there are the economics of it. As we grow our herd this spring, these calves are next year’s income for us. In all of my urban work experience, I can’t really think of a parallel for this kind of precarity, this kind of loss — save for maybe botching a grant application that you were counting on to fund next summer’s programming. But there are always other grants. No calf will just wander onto our fields to make up for this loss (if it is a loss — I don’t want to rule out the possibility that the little trickster isn’t just grazing and prancing happily a few fields away).
We’re dependent on the weather, on the rains and the rays to grow our pastures, to grow the cows and their calves. And we’re at the mercy of these cows staying within our fences and being in good health. There’s an awful lot that’s out of our hands here.
A man stopped by a few days ago to ask if we had calves for sale. I told him we didn’t, that we were growing our herd and that these animals would be grazed until next fall. I hate to be distrustful, but it’s an unhappy coincidence. I wish he had been looking fo rabbit or lamb so that I wouldn’t be thinking about it.
We don’t know our neighbours yet, save for one. Our best security is knowing who’s around, and fostering good relations so that they’ll care about us and our ability to sustain our livelihoods here. In the meantime, we’re feeling a bit deflated and sad.
And we’re hoping the calf will turn up safe and sound.