The Case of the Missing Calf

Mystery poses with her mama.

Some things in life cannot be explained. Other things may have a perfectly good explanation, if you only knew what that was. In other words, they are a “mystery.” I had one of those things happen to me last week.

On Saturday afternoon, we returned from town to see our cow, Wednesday, in labor. I changed clothes and headed out to check on her. I made it just in time to see a gray calf delivered. While I was out there, I saw that one of our other cows, Sprite, had delivered a calf, too. This calf was light brown, dry, and had probably been born during the night. It was still young enough that it did not try to run when I approached it. I pet it, saw that it was a heifer, then let it be.

That evening, while outside discussing fence options and placement with my husband, Scott, we saw our two horses chasing the brown calf. The poor heifer almost ran into the electric fence, so I immediately moved both horses from the front pasture to a different one. 

Once the horses were moved, something that took less than ten minutes, I went back to the front pasture to check on the brown calf. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. I could not locate it. Scott and I both searched the front pasture and the one right next to it (in case the calf had gone through the electric fence). We could not find it anywhere! After an hour of searching about a 15-acre area, we gave up, hoping the calf was just hidden in some tall weeds. This started around 6 p.m. Saturday. 

At 10:30 p.m. Saturday, I got out of bed, dressed, and went back outside. Listening to the mama cow bawl and bawl for her calf made me uneasy. This time, I took our dog, Sadie, with me, and we both ran around the front pasture in the dark. Our herd of cows followed me around, too, for an extra measure of fun. I knew the chances of finding the calf with just a flashlight were slim, but I hoped its mama would at least be able to find it. Again, I was unsuccessful, so I just opened up the electric fence. That way the cows would have access to both pastures. I still hoped the mama would find her calf on her own in one of the two pastures. She was quite upset and bellowed for her lost calf throughout the night and next morning. Who needs sleep, right?

At 7 a.m. Sunday, I again headed out to search for the missing calf. It was still nowhere to be found. The mama continued crying for it like crazy, and it was not answering. After another hour of searching for it everywhere, even the creek across from our front fence, I called it quits. I figured the calf must have somehow gotten through the barbed wire part of our fence and gotten lost. After losing our first calf of the year, I assumed this poor calf had died, too.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, I realized that the mama had finally stopped bawling. I looked outside and saw her calf nursing happily in the front pasture. “YOU ARE KIDDING ME!” I said out loud, to no one in particular. I ran out to the pasture and took the above photo of this little Houdini, who apparently has the ability to vanish then reappear! It was missing for 16 hours!

This shows how calves like to lay down and hide in the tall grass. This is our gray calf, Ashes.

To add to this mystery, we got a call from a neighbor not long after this saying he saw a calf out on the road. I don’t think it could have been our missing calf, because the calf would have had to cross a cattle guard twice to get onto the road and then back into the pasture. More than likely the calf hid itself in some thick blackberry vines or goat weed so well that no one, not even its own mother, could find it. However, it will always be a mystery, and that’s what I decided to name her: Mystery.

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