Have you ever witnessed a calf adoption?
As a city kid-turned-farm-adult, this adoption process was one that I shook my head at and left me speechless. Who knew that you could take a worthless Holstein bull calf (deemed so by a males lack of milking ability), and turn him into a cow’s pride and joy? The questions abounded, as they usually did during my first few years of farm experience. How did the mother take to the new calf? What made it work? Did it ever not work? What if the cow turned on the new calf? Would the cow be able to recognize her [new] calf while out in the herd?
And, as he usually did, my farmer dispelled all the unknown with a simple — “watch.”
As I watched for the first time, my eyes widened in amazement. A decade later, I still watch in wonder as this scenario is set up by my farmer husband several times during calving season.
The cow, usually distraught from loss and grief, is confined in a head chute for the safety of the farmer and so that she cannot smell the new calf. The dead calf’s hide is meticulously placed over the new calf’s body and tied gently with twine around his midsection. Then the new calf is shielded from the cow by the ever-present farmer, while convincing the calf that he does indeed want nourishment from this foreign cow. As the new calf nurses, the mother strains to see the calf that, by his actions, is slowly calming her — reassuring her that all is well.
After a successful first nursing, the farmer gently brings the calf up to the cow’s head, bending the calf so that the mother sniffs only the hide of her original offspring. Lowing sounds of recognition and bonding are evident as the cow reclaims her own.
A few days pass, and the old hide is taken off the calf. Watch out for the cow, “she’ll get in your back pocket!” as the farmer likes to say. In farmer lingo, that translates to: the adoption has been successful. The cow that defends her calf is one that claims him as her own.
The pair is sent out into the herd, just as if nothing ever happened.
As the months pass, I sometimes chuckle when I pass the pastures and see a gangly Holstein calf ambling alongside a thick Angus cow. It’s a strange sight for the accustomed eye to watch the two breeds act as if they were one.
Isn’t that the way of adoption?
Both in the human act of adoption and the sense of being adopted by God into His family. Two breeds acting as one. Because they don’t know any different. Because it’s natural to both parties. Because sins long ago are washed away. A new way of life that bonds two parties by the blood of a lost one.
Inspired by real-time, real-life farm happenings and my real-time, real-life relationship with my Jesus.