Frank, one of my three bottle calves, was all ears on a sunny Saturday morning last November.
"We budgeted for a box of tissues when it comes time to sell them right," my husband joked to me as we admired our three new bottle calves. I gave him the "I-can't-believe-you-really-just-said-that" look. I was excited about our new calves.
I wasn't lucky enough to grow up on a farm, so I married into one. Most farm kids have their first bottle calves by the age of 2. I had to wait 24 years before I got mine. I made up for lost time by tending to my "babies" every single day.
Winter in Missouri was not too kind to us last year. Many hours were spent feeding, breaking frozen water and getting more hay into the barn so the calves could stay warm. Milk replacer was constantly spilled in our kitchen sink. I made bottles two or three times a day. When I would walk outside with their bottles, they would come running to the fence nudging and pushing each other out of the way. They all wanted to be the first to eat. The sound of a calf sucking down a bottle is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard.
Slowly, I began weaning them off the milk replacer to a well-balanced ration of hay and feed formulated by feed store co-op. The calves were not too thrilled. They loved their milk replacer. Sometimes they would double check the green bucket I use to feed them with, just to make sure there wasn't any milk hiding in there.
Thank goodness our budget includes a box of tissues because when the time comes to sell them, I'll surely need some.