It all started two years ago with BLT.
    When Glen checked the maternity pen the morning she was born, there were two calves – a heifer and a bull. Both fresh cows, Blanca and Luna, were licking the heifer calf off and the bull calf was lying in the corner by himself. For the first time in the history of our farm, we had a heifer calf we couldn’t positively identify.
    Later that summer, another mystery calf was born. Paula and Solstice freshened in the pasture. Neither first-calf heifer was by either of the two calves we found – a live heifer calf and a stillborn bull calf. I entered the heifer calf in the computer with the name PS until we got the results of the genomic test back.
    Then, last year, on the same day Goldfish calved, we found three newborn heifer calves in the pasture with Hosanna and London. It was clear that either Hosanna or London had twins, which meant another set of genomic tests to figure out which calves belonged to which cows.
    With these first unidentifiable calves, at least we could narrow the dam down to one of two cows. This week, we had an unidentifiable calf that takes mystery to a whole new level.
    This mystery started on Saturday morning when Paul and Mary, the neighbors who live next to our far-off dry cow pasture, called to say they had spotted a newborn calf. Glen and Monika searched the woods and pasture, but didn’t find a calf. They also didn’t find a dry cow who looked like she had recently calved, which left Glen a bit befuddled.
    On Sunday morning, Paul called to say they had spotted the calf again and thought it had been hiding in the soybean field next to the pasture. Paul also added that he doubted we’d be able to catch this calf. When he approached the calf, it took off like a flash and, as Paul said, “It’s fast!”
    This time, Glen took Dan, Monika, and Daphne along to comb the pasture. (I was out of town, so I missed all the excitement.) Again, the search yielded no calf.
    On Sunday night, Glen and I discussed the possibilities of where this mystery calf came from. Could it be Zinny’s calf? Zinny calved 10 days early in the far-off pasture on Tuesday. She had a stillborn bull calf. Perhaps she actually had twins and this calf was hers. But if so, what was the calf living on? Surely it wasn’t surviving on soybeans and pond water. Was it nursing one of the dry cows?
    Could it be a neighbor’s calf? Glen called Joe and Kim, the only other dairy farmers close to the far-off pasture. They weren’t missing any calves. All the other dairy farms in the area seemed too far away.
    Then, on Monday morning, Mary called to say the calf was with the dry cows and the herd was headed toward the barn. Glen dropped everything, grabbed a pail of grain, and headed over there with the truck and trailer.
    Sure enough, there was the mystery calf, trotting along behind Legend, one of the dry cows. Like they always do, the dry cows came right into the corral to get the grain. The calf, however, stopped 100 yards short of the corral. Glen moved to circle around the calf. The calf, much too wary for a newborn, bolted for the pond. Glen tried to intercept its path and the calf turned toward the road. County Road 17, a busy, paved highway, runs adjacent to the far-off pasture.
    “It won’t go on the road,” Glen thought, sprinting after it.
    The calf zipped through the ravine, up the embankment, and onto the road. The calf took a left and headed west at full speed down the highway.
    Done with sprinting, Glen headed back to the corral, loaded Legend into the trailer, and was driving out to go look for the calf when his phone rang. It was another neighbor, Tim.
    “You missing a calf?” Tim asked.
    “I might be,” Glen said.
    “Well, John [a friend of ours] is holding onto one in the road ditch by Lake Sylvia.”
    “I’m on my way,” Glen said.
    A second later, Glen’s phone rang again and John’s name popped up on the screen.
    “You missing a calf?” John asked.
    “I’m on my way,” Glen said.
    Lake Sylvia is a full mile west of the spot where the calf took to the road. When Glen got there, he found five cars parked on the side of the road and John holding the calf, which, at this point, was as calm as could be.
    “No way is that the crazy calf I just chased through the pasture,” Glen thought.
    They loaded the calf into the trailer as John told Glen the whole story. John’s son was on his way to school when he spotted the calf. He stopped his truck, jumped out, and grabbed the calf. Then he called his dad and said, “Hey, come hold this calf or I’m going to be late for school.”
    John came, took over holding the calf, and started making phone calls.
    Thank goodness for neighbors willing to catch and hold calves on the side of the road. Who knows where that calf would have ended up!
    Glen got the mystery calf – a heifer, of course – and Legend back home. A quick check told us that the calf didn’t belong to Legend. And, as if we needed further proof, Legend delivered a set of twins on Tuesday.
    The calf’s exam revealed a semi-wet navel, which added to our confusion. If she is Zinny’s calf, her navel should have been mostly dry by now. It was also apparent the mystery calf had been nursing a cow, but she took a bottle surprisingly well.
    On Monday night, the coyotes overwhelmed the quiet stillness with their yips and howls. There was a group west of us, near the far-off pasture; a group just south of us, in the soybean field; and a group east of us, in the neighbor’s grove.
    “They’re everywhere,” Glen said. “Which makes it even crazier that this calf is still alive.”
    We haven’t decided if we’ll name her Mystery or Sylvia. As least she won’t be remembered as the mystery calf that disappeared.
    P.S. If any of the dairy farms within a one or two mile radius are missing a heifer calf – we have it here.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com