We had high hopes for Peace.
Her mother, Pray, was one of our first twin heifer calves. Pray grew up to be an easy-going, dependable, brood cow who spent eight years in our herd. However, unlike her twin, Hope, Pray's first several calves were all bulls.
I thought Peace was the perfect name for Pray's first heifer calf. Both because it was fitting and it would be a nice name for a calf to grow into.
We try not to give calves names that we don't want them to grow into - like not naming Dixie's calf Dasher because Glen didn't want to find out how fast she could run. And we've been pleasantly surprised when cows do grow into good names. Harmony was a great example; her mother was one of the most high-strung cows we've ever milked, but Harmony turned out to be a gentle, affectionate cow.
Well, Peace didn't live up to our expectations. Her first lactation performance was a little lackluster and she certainly did not grow into her name.
On the contrary, from the day she first calved last fall, Peace was wild. Glen would tell you she was crazy. She would run up and down the aisle in the barn, blazing right past open stalls. (Our cows don't have assigned stalls, so they can stand wherever they want.) Then, she'd get to the end of the barn and wedge herself into a stall that was already occupied. Even worse, once Peace was doubled up in a stall, no amount of encouraging would make her back out of the stall. She exited stalls by turning around first and refused to try backing straight out. So, we'd have to untie the other cow in the stall and relocate her.
When Peace did happen to find an open stall on her own, she'd bolt out of it as soon as whoever was tying up cows got within eight stalls. It quickly became routine to tie her up from behind before tying up the rest of the cows. But then you had to make sure she didn't pin you between the stall divider and squeeze the bejeebers out of you.
Needless to say, having Peace in the barn was not at all peaceful. Every once in a while, we would shake our heads and question, "What the heck happened to her as a calf that made her so wild?"
But we couldn't remember anything significant happening to her as a calf or heifer.
By mid-summer, we decided that Peace needed to find a new home. And she did.
Shortly after that, we were talking with some fellow dairy farmers about wild calves. Greg was telling a story about a newborn heifer calf that he had to chase across their entire farm before finally catching. As his story unfolded, I found myself nodding, remembering, we had a calf like that a couple years ago, too.
"Which calf was that?" I asked Glen. Glen couldn't remember, either. Whoever she was, I had chased her all over our yard, dressed in Carhartts and winter boots, on a chilly November morning when I was supposed to be getting ready for work. I finally tackled her by our mailbox, just as a car full of hunters drove by. I had forgotten about the incident until hearing Greg's story.
And I might have forgotten the story forever, had I not wrote a column about that crazy morning. So, I pulled up the column about the wild heifer calf with the 100-foot flight zone. There, in the fourth paragraph, were the words: Now, this calf, which is ironically named Peace, was running, tail wagging, head up, toward the mailbox.
Irony, yes. Peace was the epitome of irony.
And in a strange bit of foreshadowing, the rest of the paragraph read: My dad has a policy about not keeping "heads up" heifers in his beef herd. I was beginning to think maybe the same should apply to dairy heifers. Although, natural selection would happen on its own if the calf got any closer to the road. We live on a pretty busy paved county road and morning traffic is the worst.
Rereading the column about Peace's behavior as a calf answered our question about her behavior as a cow. Peace was born to be wild.
When I shared my finding with Glen, he joked, "You could have saved us a whole lot of trouble if you had just let her get hit on the road."
Knowing she was born that way, I don't feel quite so bad now that Peace didn't turn out to be a keeper.