April 4 2024 03:09 PM

This young bull calf gave us quite a scare at just hours old.

During the Civil War, “Traveller” was the name of one of the most infamous horses in history. He was known to be skittish but also brave and courageous as he always had to be in the front and lead the troops into battle. The calf in this story is not anywhere near as brave as the name implies. However, he did plenty of traveling on his own this past weekend.

On Easter Sunday, two of our bred heifers decided it was time to have their babies. One had a little bull calf, and the other had a little heifer. Our bred heifers are kept in a maternity pasture maybe a mile or two down the road from the farm. So, after milking, Dad and I loaded up my cooler with bags of colostrum replacer, a milk bucket, gallons of water, and an esophageal tube in case of necessity. We also bring along naval dip and some other potential necessities to ensure momma and baby are set until we bring them home.

The calves both ate well and were doing well. The heifer calf wasn’t as strong as the bull calf, but she wasn’t in any distress and had a full belly of warm milk and a mother watching over her every second. We left her and her mother comfortably in the barn lot for the evening, knowing she’d be just fine in the morning. The bull calf was plenty strong, and we also left them in the barn lot, but that would prove to be a mistake.

On Monday morning, we finished milking and hooked up to the cattle trailer to bring everyone home. When we arrived at the maternity pasture, I opened the first gate and told Dad to go on and feed the heifers on top of the hill while I stayed back, pushed the cows and calves into the barn, and set the gates to load them from the barn into the trailer. As he left, I slipped through the gate and opened the barn door. I soon realized that I had two cows and only one calf — the little heifer. The bull was nowhere to be found.

I quickly called Dad while surveying the fence. When I found the hole, I slid through it and up into the neighbor’s yard. I searched their yard while Dad searched the cow pasture. Without any luck, I slid into another neighbor’s cow pasture. I looked up and down the fence, in brush piles, tall grass, everywhere. I even scared myself when I disturbed a snake by almost stepping on it in the grass. Let me tell you, I have no issues with snakes until they scare the devil out of me like this one did.

With no luck, I went to the house next to the neighbors. I politely walked up to the house and asked if I could look around their yard. They laughed and told me to go ahead. Sure enough, I walked to their side porch, and the calf was lying next to the porch hidden by a holly tree. I finally found the little guy, and as I began making my way back with him, I decided to call him Traveller.

Traveller had walked nearly 400 yards uphill during the night alone. He went around three fences, up steep hills, and almost to the steep drop-off that led down to a shallow creek. When I approached him, he was completely asleep and didn’t even look up. Traveller was named due to his obvious travels, courage to even leave the safety of his mother, and for sending us on an hour-long wild goose chase. If y’all ever have a “Traveller,” good luck, my friends. Stay safe out there!

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.