By Anna Jauhola
Nestled on the western edge of Percy Township, just north of Lake Bronson, is a woman with a great ability.
“I’m kind of an early calf whisperer,” said Kathy Levenhagen, laughing.
A couple weeks ago, the Levenhagens’ neighbor had a cow give birth to a very premature calf. Kathy’s husband, Rick, brought the calf home and asked if she wanted yet another job. Although she is a busy woman, Kathy could hardly resist helping one of God’s creatures.
“Honestly, how can you not try and save something?” Kathy said. “If it’s still living, I’m going to give it a try. I’m not giving up. Any time you’ve taken care of any kind of animal, you don’t want to see anything suffer. It’s a challenge. I want to beat the odds.”
The husband and wife have long raised cattle – first dairy cows and now beef cattle. Kathy said there can always be issues with any calf, premature or full term. Oftentimes, producers will not bother with calves that have issues as it’s too much work with other calves coming.
“Most calves when they’re born live about three to four days without eating – they still have enough nutrients from their mom,” Kathy said. “So I had about three days to teach her how to suck before she got distressed.”
Patience is key, Kathy said, and she has lots of it. Rick said the calf would not have done so well had it been left up to him.
The calf started off in the Levenhagen’s porch, but as she started to move around, they needed to transfer her to the garage with a heat lamp in a 150 gallon stock tank. Kathy named her Minnie Pearl because of her spunk and determination to make it through.
The approximately 30-pound calf has grown over the last week and is finally growing more hair. She’s hardly bigger than Kathy’s blue heeler mix dog, but seems to be in good health. Kathy feeds Minnie Pearl about a quarter ounce of lamb milk replacer at a time because it has a higher fat content and more nutrients than a cow milk replacer.
“You’ve got to be really careful. You don’t want them to get colic,” she said. “Because their stomachs are so small, it can start twisting up in there. That’s why she just gets lots of little bits of formula instead of a bunch at a time.”
If Minnie Pearl makes it through and gets strong enough, she will eventually join the Levenhagen herd and likely find a surrogate mother. Rick said they occasionally have cows that lose calves and will take on orphans.
In the meantime, over Easter weekend when the grandchildren are visiting, Minnie Pearl will get lots of attention and treats. Surely, her life will be full in Percy Township with the Calf Whisperer and her family.
By Anna Jauhola