After I found Divet and her red heifer calf out in the pasture, I ran back to the barn to tell Glen and grab a dose of the newborn vaccine from the fridge. I thought about taking the 4-wheeler out to the get the calf, but after I remembered it’s size, I took the skidloader instead. While the skidloader was warming up, I threw a bale of straw in the vacant hutch and opened the wire panel so when I came back with the calf I could drive right up to the hutch.

When I came back into the yard with my red beauty, my preparedness had backfired. The calf from the hutch next door, which shares the panel with the vacant hutch, was frolicking around the yard. Apparently, when I opened the panel, it loosened it enough on her end for her to wiggle out.

I put the red calf in the hutch, fastened the panel and went to fetch the frolicking calf. Well, it turned out this calf has a flight zone of about 100 feet. And since it had a tummy full of warm milk, it had no interest in me. It’s only interest was sprinting toward the pasture. I sprinted ahead myself to head it off and succeeded only in turning it toward the road.

Now, this calf, which is ironically named Peace (her mother is Pray), was running, tail wagging, head up, toward the mailbox. 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.

I stopped running and squatted down, hoping the calf would stop, too, and its curiosity would lead it to me. It didn’t work. At least the calf stopped running, but when I took a step toward the road to try to position myself between the calf and the road, she bolted. Toward the road. I followed. 

I believe I’m in pretty good shape, but the fastest I could run in three layers of clothes, Carhartts and winter boots wasn’t fast enough to get ahead of this calf. I did get close enough to grab her wagging tail. It stopped her just long enough for her to kick me in the you-know-what region, which, despite all the padding from my clothes, stopped me in my tracks. 

But we were getting dangerously close to the road, so there wasn’t time to be a sissy. I took off after the calf. Adrenaline kicked in and I caught up. I got a hand on the calf, and, at this point, either desperation or some cattlewoman instinct I didn’t know I had took over. The next thing I knew, I had tackled Peace and we were both laying there on the ground panting.

Before I had time to finish asking myself, “Now what?”, I could hear a vehicle coming down the road. Go figure, I thought. Here I am, a calf pinned underneath me, laying about 20 feet from the road. I’m sure this looks great. But at that point, pride and public image were the least of my concerns.

I could see the passenger’s head turning around like an owl’s as the Trailblazer drove by. I’m hoping that, since they were dressed in blaze orange, they weren’t locals. And that they were too busy gawking at me to notice the name on the farm sign just behind me.

After the vehicle passed, Peace and I got up. Without a rope, I tried leading Peace like a lamb, but she just dug her heels in. I was able to coax her back toward the hutches by sticking my fingers in her mouth. Until we got about half way and she decided running was more fun than suckling. Thankfully, we were now close enough to the barn for Glen to hear me yelling for help. He came out and the two of us ushered Peace back to her hutch.

Then I looked at the clock. My little ordeal with Peace took longer than I thought. And I still needed to bring Divet in from the pasture. This is how one thing leads to another on office days. Normally, by that point, I would have been crabby about being late, but our new red heifer calf made the whole morning worthwhile. Besides that, I was still laughing at myself for having to tackle a calf.

I named our red calf Divine. Glen and I have both said a dozen times that, based on the mating, she shouldn’t be red. It just goes to show that anything can happen when colored genetics are involved. (Miracle, Gift and Surprise were the other prospective names, but I decided to stick with our tradition of starting names with the same letter as the dam’s.) 

And unlike her wild and wily neighbor, Divine has turned out to be a lover of a calf. The kind who waits by the panel for you to scratch her ears and neck. So if she lives up to her genetic potential, she could be one of those special heifers with great conformation and a great disposition. 

I’m just hoping that one red heifer calf will lead to another ... and another ... and another.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children – Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she’s not parenting or farming, she’s writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.