By Glenn Crumpler
Here on the Cattle for Christ farm, we are right in the peak of our fall calving season with three to six calves being born every day. The pretty little heifer calf born this morning was tagged 9092, meaning she was the 92nd calf born in the fall and winter of 2019.
We are grateful that so far, we have only had three casualties. This is especially significant since about 40 of the calves on the ground have been born from first calf heifers. Most cattlemen do not like calving first calf heifers because most anything that can go wrong will go wrong when birthing and nursing their first calves. Personally, when I was able to do artificial insemination and plan each mating, calving heifers was my favorite thing to do because I got to see if the females I planned were going to be better than their mamas.
Our first casualty this year was a calf born prematurely and the heifer’s milk never dropped to provide the essential colostrum and nutrition for the calf to live. The other two casualties were a newborn bull calf and his heifer mom. As is sometimes the case (especially in first calf heifers), the heifer giving birth just gets tired and quits pushing before the calf is fully delivered.
The amniotic sac (often referred to as the membrane or water bag) surrounding the fetus until just before birth is sometimes very tough, thicker than normal, and does not burst during the calving process as it should (her water never breaks). My experience has been that this condition, too, is most often seen in first calf heifers rather than in older cows.
In this particular case, the calf’s head and front legs had already cleared the birth canal, but the heifer had gotten tired and quit pushing just before she fully delivered. I slowly approached her from behind to tear the membrane so that the calf could breath, but it was so thick and tight around the calf’s nose and mouth I had to literally wrap it around my fingers behind the front leg and rip it open, pulling it off the calf’s face. Once this was done, I pulled the calf out with very little resistance, but it was obvious the calf had already suffocated.
Within seconds, the heifer finally pushed again and out came her entire uterus – large enough to overfill a 5-gallon bucket. We ended up euthanizing the cow because her prolapse was so severe.
Another problem we face at least once during a calving season happened again just this week. Our fencing and cross fencing is 100 percent high tension electric wire. Most cows prefer to get off by themselves when calving, so many of our cows will give birth close to the furthest fence row. When we see a cow in labor near the fence, we turn it off until the calf is up and nursing. The problem comes when a calf is born beside the fence and we are not there to unplug the charger. As the newborn calf stumbles around trying to get on its feet, it sometimes falls onto or through the electric fencing just as the mother is licking it off. This cleaning process is critical because it is when the cow and calf initially bond through touch, smell and sounds.
Every time the new mother follows her God-given instincts to bond with and clean up the calf before predators are attracted to it, the current from the electric fence passes through the calf and directly to the mama’s tongue. When this happens, the mama cow who so desperately wants to love, care for and defend her new baby one minute, as a result of being repeatedly shocked by the calf, will suddenly associate the electrical shock with a threat and, with the same passion she had to nurture the calf, will turn against it and beat it down. Every time the baby tries to stand up and nurse, the mama will ram it to the ground or up against a tree. If not rescued, the baby calf will be killed or so injured by the attacks that it has to be put down.
You would think the mama cow would run away and abandon the calf, but, because she has a God-given instinct to care for the calf, it is like she just gets conflicted. Although she rejects the calf, she will not leave it. She may kill it or knock it down until it is too weak or injured to stand, but very seldom will she leave it until it is removed. It is like she loves the calf, but hates whatever is causing her calf the pain. All she knows to do to protect the calf is to try to destroy whatever is hurting her baby, but, in doing so, the calf gets hurt and rejected.
The only choice we have when this happens is to either let the calf die or rescue it and try to reintroduce the cow and calf in a way that does not cause pain to either of them and gives them another chance to bond. Typically, Jack, Darrell or I will give the calf a bottle of rehydrated powdered colostrum to get it through the initial few hours. We then put the mama cow in the head chute and place the calf in front of her so that she can touch it and smell it without being able to hurt it. I then try to lead the calf around to find a teat so it can nurse by allowing it to suck my finger until I get it close enough to the teat that I can slip my finger away and introduce the teat in its place. We will repeat this process for as long as it takes. Eventually, the cow will accept as her own the calf she once rejected.
All this is a lot of detail without making a point, but in this scenario, I see some real spiritual truths we can apply to our lives. These truths can also help us to rescue others who are struggling with various issues– whether it be sin, hurt, rejection or other issues in their lives. If we are honest, we too deal with sin and hurts, and we all have troubles and struggles in our own lives we have to find a way to deal with. Sometimes we need the help of others to make it through. More importantly, we need to know without question that God loves us with an unconditional, unending and everlasting love we are not fully able to comprehend or fully replicate.
He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and He never will. Even when we cannot see or feel His presence, He is there with us and for us. I once heard a song with the lyrics being something like: “Even when we can’t see His hand, we can trust His heart.”
Though no analogy is completely applicable, I hope you can make the correlation between this example of calving experiences and your relationship with God, with others and with your own sin, hurts and struggles you face in this life.
The Bible teaches that the God of creation is a holy, sinless and just God who loves all people regardless of their love or lack of love for Him. We all, without exception, are born with a sinful nature and are, therefore, sinners. Despite our best efforts, we break God’s laws on a daily basis. Our sinfulness separates us from right relationship with the loving, just and holy God, and it separates us from right relationship with one another. Because we are all sinners, there is nothing we can do, apart from faith in Christ, to make ourselves clean, acceptable or righteous enough to be able to stand before our holy and just God and have right relationship with Him. We are literally dead in our sin! However, it is not us that God hates or punishes, it is the sin in our lives He hates that separates us from Him and leads to our earthly and eternal damnation.
It is specifically because of His great love for us that He made intercession for us when He sent His only Son Jesus to come to us as God in the flesh. In the life of Jesus, God the Father is made known to us. In Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, He shed His blood and gave His life to pay the ransom for our sins so that we could be forgiven and made one with God. In the New King James translation of the Bible it says: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, God dealt with Christ not as though He was a sinner like us, but as though He was sin itself! On the cross, Jesus paid it all! He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay! He took our sin upon Himself and imparted to us His righteousness.
When Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, He once and for all conquered sin and the penalty of sin that is eternal darkness and suffering where there is no death or escape, forever separated from God and all that is good. He did this for all who would turn from their sin and trust in the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus to save us from and out of our sin. He conquered death to give us eternal life where there will be no more death, sorrow, suffering or sin. Jesus himself will one day wipe away every tear from our eyes.
The mama cow who was hurt when she cleaned and cared for her calf did not hate her calf or want to harm it, she just wanted to hurt and destroy that which was hurting her baby. That is what God did for us, but in a much truer and merciful way.
This Christmas season, take time to reflect on how much God loves and cares for you – enough that He would send His only Son to give you eternal life. Merry Christmas!