Tricounty News

Farm babies

If you've listened to the radio or watched TV lately, chances are you're aware of the Minnesota Zoo's farm exhibit and their "Farm Babies" promotion. Every spring, there are baby calves, goat kids, lambs, chicks, bunnies, and piglets on display, and if you're lucky enough, you can witness a farm animal birth on whatever day you visit the zoo. While you may not think of farm animals as exotic species worthy of exhibition at a zoological garden, they really are exotic to urban people. If you ask any kid what their favorite thing was, it likely won't be the tigers, dolphins, monkeys, or any of the expected possibilities. It's goats. Or maybe a certain cow they got to touch. You can drive all the way to Apple Valley to see scores of endangered species and rare creatures hailing from every corner of the Earth with features that exceed the imagination, but after your child hand-feeds pygmy goats and holds a baby goat kid, believe me when I tell you there's simply nothing else that will impress them. For those of us who tend to these kinds of animals every day, and its starting to resemble work, you may shudder a little at the thought of going to the zoo if it means seeing one more cow get milked. You may flat-out laugh at the thought of paying money to feed yet another animal, and you may even believe a cold day in hell would be necessary for you to consider that chore entertainment. If this is the case, then you need a reminder of how lucky you are to have animals like this in your life, and you should go to that exhibit to watch the people instead of the animals. The looks of fascination and enjoyment on their faces will renew what it is about daily rural life that is so fulfilling, yet completely absent in the majority of the modern population's lives, except in the context of a zoo. I had my own farm babies experience right away last Friday morning. A cow was having difficulty giving birth, and the dairyman thought it was a tangled-up set of twins trying to come out at the same time. So without waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I headed out to deliver these calves, hoping I could get to them fast enough that they would not be stillborns, like so many prolonged, difficult calvings tend to be. Sure enough, after getting suited up in water-proof gear (it can get messy), I confirmed that we indeed had some early-onset sibling rivalry going on, and there were legs and heads everywhere in this cow, none of which seemed to be going in the right direction to come out, or giving me any signs of life. I was able to maneuver the first calf into position and delivered what turned out to be a female calf as alive as can be, and shortly after, her sister came out backwards just as alive and eager to learn to walk and suckle as the first! As I watched the cow licking off her healthy twin girls welcoming them to the world, I hosed off my very soiled rain gear thinking about how success of this nature called for a large cup of coffee at Ugly Tom's on my way back to the clinic. Since I was on "Cloud 9," and concerned only with getting coffee, I didn't think much of the long-looks and sideways glances I got while picking up my long-awaited beverage until I got back into the truck. A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a copious amount of cow blood and afterbirth caked on my collar and matted in my hair! The coffee was excellent. E-mail your animal questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .