Friday, March 3, 2017


Yesterday I spent a lot of time looking for and not finding a calf.

The calf was born on Tuesday, a healthy, colorful heifer. I tagged and vaccinated her and she was up and nursing and doing perfectly fine.

The last time I saw her was around noon on Wednesday, still doing perfectly fine.

Yesterday the heifer's mom was allowing a different calf to nurse.

That's a bit unusual, but not completely unheard of. Nevertheless it prompted me to want to lay my eyes on the cow's real baby.

I looked and looked and couldn't find her. I hiked the tree line where she'd been born, and tramped across much of the surrounding pasture, searching. I racked up more than five miles of hiking, which was good, but didn't find the calf, which was worrying.

Not being able to find a calf isn't unusual. Calves -- young calves especially -- are really good at laying up and holding still. It's a survival trait of herding prey animals. Every year I have a hard time finding one or two or several calves. And most of the time -- nearly always in fact -- they show up when they decide to show up, none the worse for wear.

Being unable to find the calf is in some ways a good sign, because a sick or injured calf is usually pretty easy to find. They're not trying hide when they're sick or injured, or at least they're no so good at it.

So being unable to find a calf always causes a bit of worry, but not a lot. They almost always show up within 24 hours, and almost always in perfect shape.

One thing I did notice while hiking, though, was the presence of several coyotes. There seemed to be three big ones running more or less together, making a continuous loop around the cow herd. Not a close loop, I never saw any of them nearer than about a mile, but it's unusual to see three of them together during the day.

So my worry increased, and my fear was that the calf had been predated. As a working hypothesis it was worth thinking about, but it didn't really pass the smell test. If she'd been predated she wouldn't have disappeared entirely; I'd have found the carcass.

But that didn't prevent me from worrying, and by the time I called it a day last night I'd pretty much convinced myself that the calf had been killed.

So it was nice to find her with her mom this morning, trying out her legs in the dancing fashion of young calves, skipping around whole and healthy in the frosty air and bright March sunshine.

Worry is, as far as we can tell, an entirely human characteristic. It's part of our sapience package, a feature rather than a bug. Worry can help us navigate life in the real world, help us plan, encourage us to formulate preventative strategies.

But worry is all in the mind. It's about what might or might not happen, not about what has happened or will happen. Worry has absolutely zero impact on reality. Worry does not cause bad things to happen or not happen.

I could have worried about this jet smashing into Venus, for instance.

Or the moon...

Dodged a couple real bullets there, didn't we? Not a bad idea to maintain positive control of the mind.


  1. Happy to read that the calf is ok. Always a pleasure to read your posts.

    Paul L. Quandt

  2. What would worry me, would be finding the calf, happy, happy, happy, and then later finding the three coyotes torn to shreds, with the bite marks revealing that the animal that killed them, HAD NO UPPER TEETH!

    There looked like the plane had plenty of sea room in passing Venus, ( an improper starboard to starboard passing, Venus had the right of way ). But the Moon passing was a close one. It's a good thing that the Moon's OOD backed down in time.

    1. Sounds like a possible script for a new Twilight Zone series...

      The Moon is quite a bit more maneuverable than Venus, and her crew is used to operating on congested orbitals.

  3. Enjoy your posts but this one raises a question from a non cow-poke. (There were others). Why do you feed the jack rabbits that you shoot to the coyotes and then worry about the coyotes predating calves? Why don't you just shoot the coyotes?

    PS. This is the first that I have read about predators predating. Forced some research on my part, fun thanks.

    1. Seems kind of goofy, doesn't it? I try to practice holistic ranching as much as possible. Coyotes are an important part of the ecosystem, and they'll be part of the solution to the present rabbit overpopulation. They're also scavengers and so help break down and dispose of dead animals, including the cattle we lose to death loss. They only very rarely predate calves because the cows make it to dangerous for them. Predators can't afford to become injured because then they can't hunt, and cows will aggressively protect their calves, so coyotes usually give them a pass. They're always looking though, and there's always a chance that they'll give it a try, so there's some level of worry involved. If they start getting too close or pushing too hard I'll shoot one or two and that usually makes them look for, er, greener pastures.

      Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the questions!