Our Rural Roots

A Barn Filled With Hope

Russlita (Progressive Farmer image by Katie Pratt)

My dad's herd of beef cows begin calving in mid-April with a few occasionally arriving in June. Then, in late September, the calves are weaned, and cows moved to the winter lot. By early December, the calves are sold, and the cows (and farmers) are settled into their winter routine.

But, this is 2020.

While moving cows, my brother noticed one looking heavy with calf. Puzzled, he reviewed the calendar marking when the bulls were put with the herd. Nothing added up, yet the next day, a sweet little calf was suckling her mama.

One week later, the vet came out for the herd's fall medical review. My dad asked her to look at the new mom and baby. The cow was not well.

Doctoring the weaned calves took just an hour. In that time, the cow had died. We found the calf curled up next to her mama. My dad muttered something about 2020, promptly caught the calf, turned to my daughter and said, "You have space in your barn?"

She exclaimed, "Yes!" as I silently shouted "No!" We had just sold her steer. I was ready for an empty barn this winter. But, Russlita (the name is another story) stole our hearts. She took to the bottle right away and easily made friends with the barn cats and our chocolate lab.

Russlita has filled a void. This year laid our calendar bare. It stripped away all the things that kept us frenzied, ignoring what really counts. Caring for this calf, I find myself thinking more and more about Christmas and another baby once tucked into a long-ago manger surrounded by animals.

These little creatures are filled with joy and unconditional love. They require kindness and give it in return. Maybe the heartache of this unpredictable year can be healed with the arrival of a baby.

> Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and cares for critters from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter @KatiePratt4.


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