On this cloudy morning in August, the small herd of beef cattle is witnessing commotion at the electric fence, leaning over one another and the hot wire to get a glimpse of something very new.
Emily Klesick’s Jersey milk cow, Miss Moo, who has been on maternity watch for a few days, has given birth to a little brown calf, a bull.
With Miss Moo standing protectively over him, he lay in the thick green grass just beyond the electric fence. Like aunts and uncles gathered at a maternity ward window, the admiring relatives strain ever nearer, risking electric shock or even admonishment from Miss Moo to get a nose on the newborn.
The first one to notice the commotion is Tristan. He mentions to Emily, Miss Moo’s human, that there is something small and brown out in the north pasture.
Emily, 15, says you learn, growing up on a farm, that not all experiences with farm animals have happy endings.
Her first Jersey cow, Peaches, died of milk fever only three days after Emily got her, earlier this year. Emily says she didn’t allow herself to get emotionally attached to Peaches because she knew from the beginning the cow might die.
“She wasn’t a pet, at that point, because I didn’t know her,” Emily says.
Two weeks later, Emily acquired Miss Moo. As it turned out, the new Jersey cow, which was pregnant, likes to hug, stretching her neck to rest her head on Emily’s shoulder.
“Miss Moo is very affectionate, for a cow,” Emily admits.
“She’s a lubber-dubber,” Madeleine says.
Emily leads her younger sisters Madeleine and Maleah across the pasture to see the calf. Alaina runs to catch up.
The tiny brown calf looks up at the girls with huge, shiny eyes fit for a Disney classic. It lurches slightly, stands up on its wobbly legs, and takes a couple of awkward steps.
Friend and farm hand Nathan Lama comes out to the pasture and scoops the calf up in his arms. Emily walks Miss Moo as they all head back to a safe pen, close to the house.
In all the excitement, nobody realizes Miss Moo is in the first stage of milk fever.
“When a cow gets milk fever, it’s obvious,” Emily says. “They just lay there. You can’t get them up.”
The trick with milk fever is catching it soon enough. The dairy farmer down the street comes over to give Miss Moo a shot of calcium, and she recovers.
The little brown calf is nicknamed Bullet by Maleah because he is a bull, not because he streaks around the pasture at only a week old, running under the electric fences where Miss Moo can’t follow, to be with the beef cattle when they call.