Aug 13, 2011

How to find (and lose) a baby Water Buffalo

3 pieces you should know about water buffalo (sounds a bit like the Gremlins trailer): they like to stay at home, they can be contained by a single strand of electric fence, and they don't jump. All lies.

When i surprised my vegetarian wife with two baby beef cows, that was all me. Two years later, this was HER impulse to buy a baby water buffalo. If there was ever any question how we've flourished for 12 years of marriage, Baryshnikov is the answer.

Her birthday B&B at Fairburn Farm, a nearby water-buffalo ranch with a beautiful old farmhouse was perfect in every way but one - no postcards or cow-in-snowflake-bubble gift-shop. So we came home with the only thing for sale - a baby water buffalo. Actually the owner just kinda casually mentioned that the baby needed a good home (they only keep the females for milk), and Sarah's eyes lit up with her characteristic "what if" look and i knew we had a new family member.

A new member who, like Rose and Blossom two years ago, needs to be bottle fed three times a day. A task that we all gloriously fight over, it's such a nourishing nurturing relationship-building task. This baby is getting all the loving he needs to feel free and at home here for the next 18-24 months.

Hopefully that loving will be enough to get over the major morning-after regrets. He wasn't there. He's defied the first two lies - he's run away, and walked right through a 3-strand electric fence (and then a low gap in the wire fence) to do so. We spent the entire morning entertaining the community by going door-to-door, accosting joggers, posting notices and calling the police with the apparently unusual question, "Have you seen a baby water buffalo?"

We never did find him; just suddenly reappeared in the field at lunchtime. It is possible that he'd been laying down in some tall grass the whole time, but we didn't care - we wrestled him into the cow pen, boarded it up, and fed him some milk. Problem solved.

Until he head-butted the plywood barrier down and started heading straight for that electric fence again. This time I boarded it much sturdier and walked away satisfied.

Two minutes later he was out again, exposing the third lie - he'd jumped over (hence the name Baryshnikov). So for the third time we wrestled a rather large 3-week-old baby across the field and put up even higher wood slats that he'll need Olympic training to overcome. Now we're giving him uber-attention and loving so he does become attached to us and the land before we let him out (and fixing that hole in the fence).

It all started with 10 chickens. Then more. Then 2 cows. Then meat birds. Now water buffalo. Where will this Extreme Animal Husbandry addiction lead us next?

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