Editor Carleen Madigan and her husband have witnessed the arrival of three wee Scottish Highlanders on their homestead since the start of calving season in mid-March.
Calving season starts early, up at our little homestead in the Adirondacks. Three of our Scottish Highlanders — Solstice, Iona, and Fiona — gave birth this year, with the earliest calf arriving on March 19th. We called the first one Jubilee, a name our nieces suggested, but one I’ve since come to learn is also a type of tractor. (My tractor-loving husband didn’t let on, of course.) We’re still collecting suggestions for the other two — both bull calves.
There’s a reason why all the overwintering beef herds in this region are Highlanders: these critters are tough! The only barn we have is the “living barn” — a stand of trees that offers shelter from the winter winds — and the mothers give birth right onto the snow and lick the calves dry. I’m always amazed at how resilient they are, how quickly they’re able to stand and nurse. We only bring the new calves indoors to warm up by the woodstove if the temperature threatens to dip into the low teens; even then, we try to reunite calf and mother as quickly as we can, so the calf gets as much colostrum (the first milk the mother produces, which is especially nutrient rich) as possible.
Now the calves are big, healthy, fluffy, and SO cute! They sprawl in the sunshine or frolic around the pasture, kicking their hind legs in the air and butting heads with each other. When the older cows hear the latch on the shed — where the pig grain is stored — and come running, the calves race around the herd, dashing out of the way to avoid being caught underhoof.
Far from trampling the little ones, the herd looks out for them. Cow #7826, one of the two Black Angus heifers we’ve been keeping for a neighbor over the winter, has somehow become the designated calf-sitter. Whenever I go out to check on the herd, #7826 is minding the calves while the mothers calmly munch hay at the other end of the pasture.