July 27, 2014

Cora's Transformation

(Taken as soon as I noticed Cora in labor and before the storm hit.)

It was a vision in my mind of the difference living here could make for Cora – that made sense out of deciding to cull Patty from our Herd.  It’s hard to describe.  But there was a moment I will never forget - on April 27, 2013.

I had Cora’s calf in our Gorilla cart – beckoning her to follow me into the barn so I could get both of them into a stall and out of the storm.  That baby needed to be put under the heat lamp and dried off – fast.

Cora followed me.  She got about 20 feet from the barn door – before Patty came charging up.  She T-boned Cora and started raising cane at Cora – demanding she come back.  Patty forced Cora all the way back to the furthest corner of the paddock.

It was an ‘eye-to-eye’ contact of communication between the 2 of us that told me so much.  In Cora’s eyes I could see her telling me that she wanted to come with me.  But she had no choice other than to go with Patty – no matter what she wanted.  Patty was one to get revenge when the Humans weren’t around.

And I knew that.  I’d seen it.  Patty never could see me watching her from between the blades of the window blinds in my sewing room.

But it was that moment of ‘eye-to-eye’ contact with Cora that put a solid hunch into my heart.  I just knew Cora would be so much happier – if Patty were gone.  And a day would come when I could brush her.

We just don’t sell mean animals.  Patty became much nicer – in the Freezer.  And you could just – feel – this warm and fuzzy blanket of – pure calmness – covering our entire property – as soon as that livestock trailer could no longer be seen or heard by the others.

It’s been a long – slow – patient – compromising journey with helping Cora build trust enough to fit in just like all the others – over this past year.  But we’ve pampered her.  We’ve never pushed.  She’s enjoyed the cookies – the extra hay – having so many things her way.  She’s appreciated being allowed to come inside the barn during the rough cold winter periods and during storms.  She’s appreciated the respect we’ve given her.

Through it all – she’s maintained 2 rules - “Do NOT touch me.” – “I don’t share my food with anybody!”

We’ve had to dance around the issue regarding her food rations.  Our first go-round of having April and Anna in the same paddock with her presented problems during meals.  She wasn’t backing down.  So we tried bringing the other 2 girls into the little yard to share the bunker during meals.  When it works – you go with it.  When it doesn’t work – you better be willing to think fast and try something else – if you want your own supper.

Cora has enjoyed – and appreciated - her life here since Patty left.  And she let that be known when April dropped her first calf.  She witnessed April take such a drastic switch into a negative direction with her behavior – as soon as that calf hit the ground.

Cora was in her own stall – beside April’s – when she watched April throw Dwayne into the air and against the wall.  All he was doing was picking up manure so she could enjoy a clean stall.  Cora’s always understood and appreciated that care from us.  She’s never resisted scooting over so we could “get the poo-poo” for her – not even when she spent a week in her stall after having Stormy.

She witnessed April’s constant attempts to ram us when we tried dishing her grain into her feed trough – even when we’d try giving that girl extra hay.  But I think the turning point came when Cora saw April ram me out in the paddock - and hurt my right arm – which I’d had surgery on in January.

Training Cora to come inside her stall to eat paid off in more ways than we’d even hoped.  We needed to be able to con her into that stall – especially when it came time for her to calve.  Having this calf was a whole new ballgame for her.  Patty wasn’t around.  And we wanted her to enjoy the experience – for a change.  But we never assumed things would go as hoped.

The surprise came when we noticed her eagerness and willingness from the start.  This was just one more thing that Cora wanted – in order to feel like she fit in with the others.  She wanted to eat inside her own stall – like April.  With the exception of the few days she spent in that stall after she calved Stormy – Cora had always shared the alley of the barn with Bruce – or – alone.

We turned April and Aon out into the paddock – after they’d had time to bond and he was fit for going outside.  We tried turning Cora out with them.  Right off the bat – Cora began trying to nurse Aon.  And she began shoving April out of the way.

We had to pull Cora out of there – immediately.  She was close to calving.  We could not have another calf robbing the Colostrum from Cora that would be needed for her own calf.

We’re not quite sure if this may have attributed to a problem we had later.

But the trouble we had with getting her out of there had me concerned.  Cora’s persistence – reluctance – followed by blowing snot at me for the rest of the day – had me feeling there was something more to it.  I had to kiss her butt with cookies and extra hay – even after the sweetfeed – just to get her to stop blowing the snot.

We know now – and we will try next time – milking the colostrum from Cora for storage – before pulling April’s calf and putting it with Cora.  But things with Cora began changing after that.

My routine with her during meals was to – deliberately – set her feed bowl in the furthest corner of her stall.  I was letting her know that I was respecting her flight zone in a small space.  I picked up manure around her – first.  And then I would lay her hay out along the front wall of her stall.

All of this – at the time – was about conditioning her - preparation for being able to access her stall with her and the calf inside.

I always made a point of swinging out - away from her big preggers butt to leave the stall after setting down her feed bowl.  The 2 of us developed a comfortable routine within a couple days.  Cora would follow me in and even give me room to set the bowl down before approaching to put her nose inside.  Basically – I’d walk the back wall of the stall – then walk the side wall and exit through the door.

There was a day – before we’d tried letting her out into the paddock with April and Aon – when she pulled a stunt on me.  I set the bowl down.  She approached the bowl and began eating as soon as I stepped to the right.  But as I reached the corner of the stall connecting the back and side walls – Cora made an obvious and deliberate move – dragging her feed bowl backward and swinging that big preggers butt to the right – trapping me into the corner.  She did it so fast that I lost my footing and had no choice but to lean on her right backside to catch myself.

Not one single flinch appeared in her entire body.  She just continued inhaling that grain – like nothing happened.  I had to remember to breathe first – move my hand second.

Until then - I’d always used my buzz words “coming around, Baby Girl” – whenever I needed to pass by her in the alley of the barn for any reason.  But I never touched her.  When I tried doing the same for this moment – the Girl would not budge.

I tried it again.  Only this time I gave her 2 soft pats on her right backside as I said the words.  That was one of those cliff-jumping moments.  My gut was wrecked!  She could have kicked the fool out of me – smashed me into the walls.  I could have been a goner – so easily – after touching her again!

She made one step to the left.  That was all.  I had to squeeze around her backside to get out of the corner.  (Compromising to the bitter end?)  She never even moved a hoof until I made it outside and closed the stall door.

I just stood there – holding back tears.  Everything inside me told me that she’d done that on purpose.

From that day until Seamus was born – Dwayne and I would test the waters with patting her on the butt every now and then.  She never fussed.

(Taken after we knew it was okay to go inside.)

As luck would have it – I couldn’t bring myself to lock her up in her stall near the end.  Me and my cup of coffee headed out to the barn as soon as I could see outlines of trees and structures on June 6, 2014.  I found Cora standing about 20 feet from her new black baby that was curled up in a ball and sleeping.  But that was even better than had she been inside the barn.

We’d been prepping Artist for the new arrivals.  He became pissed off after seeing April and Aon in the other paddock for the first time.  I had been telling him that he was gonna get to see HIS new baby.  I had prepped him with my buzz words.  “You and April are gonna have a new baby!  You’re gonna be a Daddy, Artist! I’m gonna make sure you get to see your baby.  I promise!”  They all know that last part secures the deal.  Mom follows through with that one – all but this one time anyway.  And it broke my heart.  I was as angry as him.

But Artist was able to stand only a few feet from Cora while she gave birth to Seamus!  He had to go through some training with learning how to use his “ Baby voice, Artist… Gentle.”  He goes from holding his head up kicking out a roar to holding his head way down and looking up with his eyes while he gives off this gentle coo.  I snicker every time he does it.  He loves to coo to the babies.  And it’s all just so cute!

But after all the frightening nightmare we went through with April – we both stood outside the little yard.  Dwayne stood next to the gate.  I stood under the RV pad.  Cora seemed to conclude that we were not coming inside.  And the coolest thing happened!

She walked over to the calf – began nudging and mooing until the calf stood.  And then – she began pushing the calf toward me!  Dwayne and I just looked at each other with mouths wide open.  We went inside!

It was as if she was compensating for April’s bad behavior – deciding to share her calf with us.  And Miss April watched the whole thing.  We could only hope she would learn a lot from Cora – and cool her jets.

We took pictures – of course!  And then we decided on a plan for getting the 2 of them into her stall – at least long enough to figure out how we’d get to the calf so we could dip the navel and give him his intranasal e.Coli bovine vaccine.

We tried the usual feeding routine.  It worked.  But she left the calf outside!  So Dwayne carried him in while I manned the stall door to get him in with her quickly – to quiet her down.  All she did was moo a little louder to let Seamus know she was there.

So much more different than April.  THAT Girl has had to learn so much with this first calf.  And the first lesson was learning that mommies do not leave their new babies in a corner of the bedroom and go partying!  All it took was a flake of hay.  She almost ran out of the barn to get to it.  It was as if she’d completely forgot that she’d just had a calf!

And then it took her a few minutes to realize we’d shut the barn door!  But when she snapped – all Hell broke loose!  Luckily – we had Rob and Michelle there.  We had to work fast to dip Aon’s navel – weigh him and give him the intranasal vaccine.  But Dwayne cleaned the stall.  He laid fresh hay over the entire stall and have her a couple flakes to eat.  All was fresh and clean – and baby was just fine.  Took her 5 whole minutes to shut up!

Cora had no problem after Dwayne set the calf down.  She let him come back into the stall to dip his navel and give him his vaccine.  She let both of us come inside and pet him – love on him.  She just made it so obvious that she wanted to share this calf with us!

That surprise became a blessing more than we could have imagined – 3 days later.  And I’ll share all that in the next posting!

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