After three hours of labor, only a hoof could be seen peaking out the back of a 1300-pound dairy cow. By 12:30 a.m., 27-year-old farmer, Adam Krammerer, stepped in to deliver the calf.
He urged cow tab number 113 into the chute and slipped on long, plastic gloves. Reaching inside the uterus, he found the other front leg and straightened it. Krammerer pulled a chain out of his jean pocket and hooked it to the calf’s front hooves. With a push from 113 and a crank on the come-a-long, a nose appeared; with another crank the head, and then, the shoulders.
The jet-black body of a heifer slid onto the corn stock bedding.
At 12:38 a.m., calf 46 was born.
She looked up into the bright light the farmer had dragged her under, dazed. Steam rose from her wet body, as the warm tongue of her mother began to dry her off and wake her up.
The farmer called her an “oops baby” and said she would have died if he had not been there.
Nine months ago, heifer 113, a 2-year-old Holstein, got through a hole in the Krammerer’s fence and in with Target, a Simmental beef bull. After getting pregnant by Target without Krammerer knowing, 113 was artificially inseminated by 614H5010, also known as Columbia, to produce another generation of Holsteins for Lone Oak Dairy Farm, outside Winona, Minn. The farmer realized the chain of events immediately upon 46’s birth.
By the time the farmer headed back inside to get a few hours of sleep, 46 was looking around the dark barn. The gaze of a bulky brown cow met 46’s, along with the smell of corn stalks and 200 cows.
Other cows in 46’s pen came over to see her, but her mom protectively pushed them back.
By 1:30 a.m., 46 began to push herself up on her wobbly legs. First on one back leg, then the other; butt sticking in the air. When she almost had it, a large black shoulder knocked her back down and she started again.
After many failed attempts, at 1:46 a.m., 46 stood by herself. She began to walk around her mother with legs spread wide in uncertain steps, looking for the bulging pink utter that meant food. Her mother continued to lick her and pushed away cow tab number 100, who thought 46 was her baby.
At 3:30 a.m., 46 curled up under the lone light to sleep.
By this time, her entire life had been decided. In four to six weeks, she will be weaned, given shots and moved into a pen with other beef cows. 46 will spend her whole life on the Krammerer’s farm as a beef mom. By the time she turns two, she will have her own calf to raise.
46 was awoken at 4:15 a.m., by the movement of 130 dairy cows preparing to be milked. 100 stood next to her black-and-white boy calf, born around 3:30 a.m. As the farmer walked towards her, 46 stood up and moved closer to her mother. With clicks, whistles and taps on the rear, the farmer ushered cow 100 and 46’s mother towards the gate. 46 heard her mother bellow for her, but the farmer closed the gate, blocking 46’s path.
46 peered through the fence at her mother for the last time.
By 7 a.m., 46’s stomach was growling. The farmer returned with a bottle of thick, yellow milk called colostrums—the first milk that contains antibodies to protect newborns from disease—provided by 46’s mother.
He held the bottle to her mouth and 46 sucked down all four quarts in a few gulps. White foam and the sweet smell of the milk was all that remained, as 46 nudged the bottle for every last drop.
After 46 and the boy calf were fed, the farmer pushed the two calves into a corner of the pen and blocked them from the other cows. He then flipped 46 on her back and dabbed iodine on her belly button to prevent infection. As soon as she got to her feet, the farmer grabbed her again, and with a click, pierced her ear with a tag reading “46.”
As the farmer left at 7:15 a.m., 46 played and nipped at her pen mate, surrounded by the soft mooing of cows and smell of hay. She lay down in the corn stock bedding next to the boy calf, which will be fattened and butchered in 15 months. With a full stomach, best friend and soft bed, 46 closed her eyes contently, not to be disturbed again until her evening feeding at 7:15 p.m.