2018-05-10 / Life in Leelanau

In Leelanau Spring babies ‘make the farm feel alive’

By Jen Murphy
Of The Enterprise staff

BARN BABIES. Holding a two-day old doeling, Sadie Murphy smiles as she learns the name of the littlest goat on her farm: Peanut. 
Photo credit Konkal Photography BARN BABIES. Holding a two-day old doeling, Sadie Murphy smiles as she learns the name of the littlest goat on her farm: Peanut. Photo credit Konkal Photography Springtime means babies.

Just ask any farmer or rancher. It’s like Christmas for some folks — all of that fuzzy, furry cuteness running, hopping and frolicking in the fields.

Tammy Flores has over two decades of experience with spring babies at R & R Flores Farm in Cedar. And each spring, she looks forward to seeing the new calves and naming them all.

Flores will have to think of a lot of names this year. Flores said they had 26 expecting cows with 10 calves on the ground.

“All the births are fun and special because it’s what we wait for,” she said. “It’s always a signal of spring when the calves come out. It makes the farm feel alive.”

While they have had to assist in their share of births, especially in the case of twins or a calf turned the wrong way, Flores said the cows usually take care of things themselves.

“They kind of do it on their own,” she said. “Some cows like to do things with no one watching.”

Because of the recent weather, she said they had two mothers they put in the barn as they got ready to calve.

“We went in every hour or two to check on the one, and the other ended up having her baby,” Flores said.

And some cows seem to want to be left alone even after they give birth.

Flores said they had one mother who was over-protective of her calf and ended up throwing her brother-in-law over the fence. “She was just doing her job,” she said.

But Flores knew they had to do something to help this new mother get along with the people taking care of her. “So we had to kidnap her baby,” Flores said, and things settled down. They milked the cow to bottle feed the baby, and everyone was happy.

Unplanned bottle-fed babies can also happen if mothers reject their babies.

Gills Pier Ranch owner Chris Butz had to bottle feed a yak calf last year, following a rather eventful birth.

“I got a call from my right-hand guy, Brandon Priest, about a new mom with her first calf,” Butz said. “He found the baby non-responsive, grabbed the heifer calf by the hind legs to remove any fluids from her mouth and gave her mouth-to-mouth.”

The calf revived.

The mother rejected the calf, Butz said, but the baby calf, Freya, was bottle fed and has grown into a strong heifer who is still on the ranch today.

Butz said he expects 10 to 13 babies this year. After an eight-and-a-half month gestation following a fall breeding, Butz said he expects the yak cows to calve in mid-to-late summer.

More often than not with births on the farm, nature takes its course and the birth goes smoothly.

And sometimes more action comes after a baby calf or kid arrives.

Kathleen Bittner and Thomas Koch, owners of Polish Heritage Farm in Cedar, welcomed two sets of twin goats to the herd of 16 on their farm this week.

All went well and the four kids are happy and healthy.

But they have jumped in to help after kidding in the past to help does learn how to take care of their young ones. “You’re always hoping not to intervene,” said Bittner. “As a mother, the second time is much easier, you know what to do. But the first time mothers sometimes need help.”

She recalled a time last year when two goat sisters both had kids within a few days of one another. The one doe allowed her kids to nurse, but the other doe didn’t. “When one didn’t want to nurse, the sister became a wet nurse for the other one until she was ready to nurse her own babies,” Bittner said.

Of course, the efforts always have rewards. “I love to see my own kids with the animals,” she said. “When you say the word ‘goat,’ my daughter has her coat and shoes on.”

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