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Bummer Calves: What They Mean To Me


(photo courtesy of the beautiful and talented Lacey Hemphill.  Great shot Lacey!!)

Bummer Calves by definition (that being my definition, no Webster’s here this morning) are calves without moms. Usually a bummer calf’s mom:

A. had some kind of milk production problem
B. had twins 
C. died (rare)
D. for some weird reason, unbeknownst to the world, wouldn’t claim her calf and can’t be forced to.

Bummer calves live in a “hot box” or “hay fort”.  Here’s an example of a “hot box”.  Buck was transporting this little guy in or out.

Bummer calves require milk twice a day via a large bottle or a “tuber” if they aren’t able to suck.  A calf leaves “bummer calf” status when an adoptive cow comes along.  A cow becomes an adoptive mom because:

A. her calf died

Fortunately for you, and for me, today we’re not talking about grafting calves to their new adoptive moms.  This can be a burdensome process, one of which I don’t have much to do with, nor do I feel like explaining to the WWW today.

What I’d like to talk about is Bummer Calves and what they mean to me.  In years past, I have never fully appreciated these little creatures.  Let me explain… their place of residence (in the hay-bale lot) is just down from our house.  When Buck is busy, I occassionally take on the task of getting the little bummer a bottle of milk.  In the past, I have resented being asked to do this… I mean I have children of my own who require milk, often at very undesirable hours of the night.  I have children who make messes that I have to clean.  I have children who have needs and require a lot of attention.  I have children who have to be bundled up and packed up for this kind of chore.  While we’re on the subject… chores….dishes and laundry and cleaning and messes.  I resented another chore. 

ALL OF THAT, my friends, was in the past!  The chores are still there, the children are still there, AND in the middle of calving season, bummer calves are still there.  It’s simply that this year I don’t resent the cute little things.  Bummer calves to me are….

1. an ESCAPE!  When Buck gets home in the evening, I can leave my family and run away to the bale lot.  It’s a beautiful thing. It’s usually dusk-ish and I thoroughly enjoy not only the walk down, but the quiet time I experience as I feed the calf and walk home.  It’s pure delight. 

2. an ESCAPE!  During the day the girls and I often need to get out of the house- a change of scenery and direction.  Sometimes it’s nice to not only get out of the house, but to have a sense of purpose in getting out.  This purpose…
 

…. has no dress code….

… no hair or attitude requirements…

…and it’s a nice way to get the girls out for some fresh air.  Lucy burns off energy walking and Kate can hang out in the backpack.

3. a BRIBING tool…. “Lucy, if you want to go feed the bummer calf you need to show me that you’re big enough…. that means putting your toys away, not pushing your sister down, cleaning both bathrooms and finishing my laundry.” (OK, just the toys and pushing really, but someday…)

4. an OUTTING… for Buck and the girls.  It’s a nice little adventure, right around dinner-making time, need I say more?

Buck just informed me that my most recent “bummer” has a new mom. Looks like I have to think of a new excuse to escape to the bale lot in the evenings….BUMMER!

–Chelsea

7 Comments Leave a comment »


  1. I love bummer calves. In my part of the country they are called Leppy calves. Before I moved to Vale I had a full time job of taking care of the leppies. I was so fun getting up in the morning and going down to the barn. They would be waiting for me. I also had a key part in “grafting” too. One spring I had as many as 18 leppies. We grafted 10 or so and they all took nicely. That meant there were still 8 when all the cows were turned out. Anyways bla bla bla. I miss the the job something greatly.



  2. You are truly a rancher’s wife :) I know that Joe misses that stuff and would LOVE to do it again someday. He really is a rancher at heart, not all this other stuff he’s been doing :) (though he does enjoy fire fighting)



  3. Awww…I want one! I would adore getting to feed a baby calf, especially an orphaned one. I’m telling you, that’s about enough to get me crying! I nearly teared up reading your little story. Love your stories…it makes this city girl want a dude ranch vacation :)



    • Don’t waist your time on a “dude” ranch. Go visit a real one like where Chels is at. You will enjoy it much MUCH more. I promise :) just a little cowgirl advice.;-)



  4. sounds like you need to come for a visit Miss Mindy!



  5. I love those great pictures !!!!! and reading!!!!!!!! You`re amazing!!! keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  6. Janie DuBois Wrankle

    March 22, 2010
    10:11 am

    My dear friend Gail Carhart Scofield recommended this site. Lovely. We ranch on the central California coast. I’ll post some pictures later.

    We call calves that have lost their mothers, Leppies. Where that name came from I don’t know. Even as kid, my job was to bottle feed them. My mothering insticts started early. I had a leppie calf that was introduced back into the herd, and call his name, he would leave the herd and come over to me. He did that for over a year.




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