Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Caring for babies
For those of you who don't live in the country, it's a common sight to see young calves lying together in a group - those that are fortunate enough not to be put into a factory farm where they live cheek by jowl on top of dung heaps and seldom see the light of day.
These calves are cared for by one or two cows who lie nearby. This delightful pastoral scene shows ten of the perhaps dozen and a half that were close to a fence line, just begging for me to stop and take their picture as they dozed peacefully in the sun.
There were three cows lying close to the group of calves. And as soon as I stopped the car and got out, one vigilant mother got up and stared at me.
Now cows are endlessly curious - they love to have something unusual to capture their attention and will come over to a fence line to see what's going on if they are used to being handled. This group was no exception. As I tried to get closer to get a better shot, two of the calves stood - one wandered sleepily over the its mother, the cow who had stood up, and nuzzled for a bit to find something to suck. Mother continued to watch me carefully.
This wee fellow wanted a snack, no two ways about it, though his friend behind him shows cows' typical endless curiosity and stood stock still staring while his buddy marched by with sleepy determination.
It's a lovely pastoral scene, one that seems to be returning in many cases to rural areas. Small farming, many economists believe, will be the way of the future, without growth hormones, anti-biotics and other unnecessary chemicals. A return to the family farm? Perhaps. A difficult move when it is so costly for farmers who often must work off the farm to make ends meet and the rest of the family too.
However, that's not what today's story is really about, (I get side-tracked sometimes). This is about how herd and pack animals behave. Cows, horses, sheep, goats, deer, caribou, wolves, dogs - and many more that I can't think of, work as a group to protect their young and to eat.
It's fascinating to watch and peaceful too. There's something so easy about cattle in a field grazing - or any animal in a field doing its natural thing. Time isn't a factor in their lives, though they condition themselves to know when the gates will be open for a meal or milking or bedtime.
Some days I feel like sleeping under a tree or wandering along not really thinking about much, but watching the clouds drift, or the grass ripple in a breeze...not unlike this small herd of calves and their dams, having an afternoon siesta in the early summer sun. Isn't that what sunny summer days are for?
Hope yours has been a peaceful and relaxed day.