This month, we celebrated Casey and Phoenix steers’ second birthday. Standing next to these boys now, it is hard to believe that they were ever small enough for me to carry. When they first arrived at the California Shelter as calves, there were many health obstacles for them to overcome, as they had contracted tendons and poor immunity from not receiving their mother’s vital colostrum. The biggest challenge initially, however, was getting them to eat. Of course, being weak and without a mother to teach them, they had no idea what a bottle was, and it was necessary for us to tube-feed them at first.
Here's Phoenix when he was little. See more photos.
After several training sessions with interns and staff, however, Phoenix and Casey finally began to eagerly take their bottles. They even started coming up to their hospital stall gate when they heard the lid being removed from the container of milk replacer, waiting to give their surrogate mother a playful head knock for their food. Much to their dismay, they were later weaned and given "grown-up" meals of alfalfa and hay – though it was this big change that allowed them to move to a pasture with other cattle.
Their first introductions to other bovines were with the members of our small special needs herd of steers, all of whom are older and afflicted with arthritis. Casey and Phoenix instantly loved these steers and quickly won them over with their charm. Along with showing the boys proper cattle etiquette, the elders were very affectionate with the calves and always gave them kisses. But as Casey and Phoenix grew, they became a little too rambunctious for the slower-moving steers, revealing to us it was time for them to join the main herd.
This herd is also comprised of mostly older cattle, who at first didn’t enjoy these spunky calves eating from their pile of hay; but, after several days, the two were finally accepted. The cow who has stolen their hearts, however, is Susie Moo – also a newer addition to the herd. From the first day they met her, Casey and Phoenix were swooning and lavishing her with kisses, as you’ll see in the photo of Susie Moo and Phoenix below!
Now, as I stand next to Casey and Phoenix they are as tall as me, and as large as some of the other cattle we care for who are several times their age; however, both remain calves at heart. They maintain their strong bond with one another and they always welcome me when I come to see them – mooing and coming over to investigate, hoping for a tasty treat and never failing to make me smile and laugh.
But even as I celebrate Casey and Phoenix, their birthday also brings a hint of sadness as I think of Billy, another calf rescued with them who passed away. He was the goofiest of the bunch, and I’m sure he would be larger than life if he was still with us now. I continue to mourn his loss as if it happened yesterday. Still, he and all the other animals I’ve loved who passed away remain in my heart and make me all the more thankful for each birthday we celebrate here at the farm.