Thursday, August 2, 2012

They Grow Up So Fast

Three weeks. It seems impossible that it's been three weeks since the baby buffs were born. It seems equally impossible that there was a time when Chuck and Mabel weren't a part of the daily routine around here. Not just a part--without question the best part.

And so much is changing already. It's rare now for me to find the calves lying down; they're almost always up and exploring or playing. Should I happen upon them at rest time, they quickly jump--not to attention but for attention. (above and below: Chuck left, Mabel right)

Chuck found his land legs. Once he got the hang of running, he seemed to transfer the muscle memory from that experience over to the complexities of walking. His gait no longer looks awkward or unsure. In fact, he seems to have quickly made the leap over to cocksure. Shortly after he discovered the fun of bashing into his sister, he started taking running aim at the back of my knees as I went about cleaning out the barn. Fortunately, he's not nearly as sneaky in his approach as he thinks, so I've managed to keep his not insignificant skull from making more than the lightest contact with my most fragile joints.

More amusing to me is when he spies Eschol on the other side of the electric fence and pretends to charge him. Dad just stands his ground and looks at the little whippersnapper as if to say, "just try that without an electric fence between us, son, and we'll see who the real bull is."

Mabel holds her own well against her brother. Yesterday, I watched as he tried to push her by pressing his head into her chest as hard as he could. She would not be moved. When she wearied of the game, she simply used his head as a lever to launch herself on top of him. Game over. I suspect that will not be his last humiliation at her hooves.

Mabel has shown her own mischievous side. Not towards me. Or even Chuck as far as I've seen. No, she likes to let her playful side come out with Audrey. One steamy afternoon (is there any other kind anymore?), Audrey wanted to roll around in the mud in front of the barn to get a little extra help cooling down. That pink belly is a sure sign that she needs some wallow time.

Mabel thought this was an invitation to play hop on mom.

Mom never gets a moment to herself.

I noticed today that Chuck's horns are already starting to grow. Those little horn buds that were largely hidden by his Elvis hair are starting to get rounder and taller. I'm not looking forward to the day when his horns are long and pointy. So, instead, I'll focus on how good it is to finally feel him filling out a bit--not just skin on those ribs anymore. Both the calves seem taller and more fully-fleshed. Audrey is doing a stellar job keeping these little guys fed. It helps that water buffalo milk has really high butterfat content so the babies put on weight quickly.

What really surprised me was how quickly the calves started to make their first forays into the world of solid food. They were barely a week old when I saw Mabel start to imitate Audrey, grasping a blade of grass with her tongue and shearing it off between her teeth and dental pad. A few days later, I found Chuck nibbling on some old straw in the barn. I don't think either of them is really eating solid food to get nutrition at this point; probably just learning the technique for future reference. But they both regularly drink out of the water tank, proving that they can already take care of their own hydration needs should the milk go away abruptly. Audrey has good incentive to keep the milk flowing, however, as she is getting special feed to keep her strength up. Normally, we keep the buffalo on grass or hay with no grain but lactation is a major energy hog and providing for two calves could seriously sap her reserves, so Audrey gets the royal treatment foodwise (plus lots of extra attention and her own barn for being such a champ).

They haven't started wallowing yet. Audrey seems to be keeping them out of the deep mud. On the rare occasion that she lets them hang with her when she wallows, she keeps them in front of her in the shallowest, firmest part of the wet-weather creek. They get to lie in maybe a half an inch of water but no rolling around in the mud. While that makes them much more pleasant to touch it also means they are attracting a lot of unwanted attention from the ticks. More often than not, Audrey tucks the calves in the barn or some other shady spot before she goes for her mud bath. They get their spa treatment later when I give them nice massages to distract them from the fact that I'm pulling ticks off of them.

I don't feel like these photos are doing full justice to the calves. For instance, I don't think I've managed to capture the little white switch each one has at the end of the tail. Audrey has a nice golden switch and I suspect that as the calves grow up, the deer-like white tip of their tails will become more blond. Well, I guess you'll just have to come visit and see for yourself. You won't be disappointed. These little guys have charmed everyone who's come by so far, from city slickers to seasoned farmers.

Typically, summer is a season of low maintenance and low contact with the buffs. No feeding, no mucking out barns, and just a bit of attention to the water supply is all that's required. Not this summer. But that's ok. Over the weekend, I got the temporary fence put up across the creek so Audrey and the calves can go grazing on the Booth where the forage is plentiful. Effie and Eschol are getting twice-daily excursions into the newly-reinforced lower pasture--more about them in the next post--so everyone is well-fed and seems to be content to stay within the confines of their respective fences. We're all settling in to our new routines.

Note to self: go sit in the field with Chuck and Mabel before they get too big. With Eschol in exile, I am rediscovering the joy of spending time in close contact with the buffalo. When we first got our trio a little over two years ago, I loved hanging out in the pasture with them. It wasn't at all unusual to sit down in the field and have a buffalo come over and lie down next to me and put her head in my lap. That gets trickier as they get older, (and downright stupid with an adult bull), so I need to go make the most of the time I've got before they get big and hormonal. You should, too. Do come visit before they get all grown up.

1 comment:

  1. Hadn't checked in lately and I had missed that Effie didn't want to be a mama! You make Audrey sound like a super-mom cow. Those two little buffs are so dang cute, I love those ears standing straight out. You are an amazing woman, Alison. Enjoy!