It's that time of year when everyone is sending their kids back to school or off to college. It's a difficult time for everyone. As much as we parents look forward to having a little more free time and our kids look forward to their new adventures in school, there is an adjustment period for everyone. I was thinking about this as we lay awake in the bed last night, listening to 5 heifer calves Mark had separated from the herd that day for weaning bellowing (the calf equivalent of "mom... Mom... MOM.... MOOOOOOOOOM!)
As pitiful as they sound, we know they are fine. Not only are they ready to be weaned, their dams are ready too. Imagine breast feeding a baby nearly half your body weight! Some of these girls look absolutely ridiculous trying to duck their heads down low enough to reach moms teats when they are almost as tall as her. I feel for the mamas, knowing how much breast feeding takes out of you. They are ready for the girls to stop feeding off of them and the girls are old enough that their rumen are developed and they will do well on good hay and grass.
Calves and moms are in separate pens but they can see each other and interact between open fencing. The calves know that moms are nearby and they can touch noses, or even give a reassuring lick over the fence. Still, they bellow and cry. "mom....Mom....MOM.... MOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!" The funny part is that the moms are not bellowing back. They are out in the pasture grazing as usual. They check in with their calves periodically and make contact across the fence but they are not fretting or crying. You can almost imagine the thoughts they would be having if they were human, "It's OK, darling." "You will be fine." "Be a big girl now." They give them a reassuring "moo" and then move back out the pasture without a look back, just like the moms I know who drop their kids off for the first day of school and go out for the celebratory Bloody Mary at Dick's Bar.
In another day or two everything will be quiet again. They have already calmed down quite a bit and are starting to be more and more curious about us as we come and go to fill their water and to bring them fresh hay. In a few weeks they will be on their way to their new homes where they will find their places among existing herds or where they will be the first of new herds of Highlands. It's always hard to send them on their way, much like it's hard to put our own kids on the school bus for the first time, but we know we are sending them to good homes and it is their path to move on and continue the historic lineage of this beautiful heritage breed.