Last week, I was asked to take care of a five day old calf while our neighbors moved their son to Texas. The calf’s name was Sir William. He was a docile, friendly little thing who could steal your heart in less than three minutes.
That night, William lay on the floor of his stall on his side with his feet stretched out. Most calves lay with their feet curled under them. His breathing was slightly labored, and after he didn’t drink much formula, we began to worry.
I walked to the barn alone very early the next morning with the thought that I could find him in the stall, dead. Assuring me he was still alive, the sound of his breathing told me he was not doing well. William not suckling the bottle was another confirmation he was not doing well.
After covering him with a blanket, trying to use a feeding tube, other doctoring, and several phone calls, we were informed of the problem. William’s mother had died as soon as he was born, which means he did not get colostrum. Colostrum is milk that cows (and all mammals) produce just before the birth of the baby that contains the antibodies the baby needs to survive. William had no antibodies, and his body was slowly starting to shut down.
The next few days consisted of trips down to the barn every hour to try to coax colostrum substitute formula into his body. My dad would pump the fluid into William, while I stroked his neck, trying to get him to swallow the formula rather than let it run out of his mouth onto my jeans. Even though he couldn’t understand, I told him over and over that if he didn’t drink the formula, he would die. He needed to drink the formula if he wanted to get better.
During the time I cared for William, I came back to the house at night very tired. As I climbed in bed the after the first day of intensive calf care, I told God I was tired, and I would spend time with Him the next day. I remembered my pleas to William, trying to get him to drink, and it was like I could hear God coaxing me to spend time with Him, to read His words, that are my “milk.” Just as I wanted William to crave the formula, God wants us to crave His word. Life is full of diseases, viruses, and infections, and His word is the colostrum that gives us the antibodies we need to fight those and live a full life.
Katie Odell, 2012