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Sheryl Prentice / The Journal Gazette
Jeremy Prentice, right, and Lucas Pomeroy use 2-quart nursing bottles to feed replacement milk to twin Shorthorn calves Barney and Betty. The twins have to be bottle-fed because their mom didn't claim them as her own offspring.

Bottles for Barney and Betty

Twin calves Barney and Betty are the fourth set born to our herd of Shorthorn beef cattle this year. One set of twins in a herd is unusual, but four sets – unheard of. Even our veterinarian is impressed.

They couldn't be more opposite in color. Barney is all white and looks like a ghost in the pasture field on a moonlit night. Betty is totally deep red with only a couple of spots of white on her underside. Too cute!

Giving birth must have confused their mother. The cow had both calves without difficulty, but the bonding process short-circuited in some way and she refused to claim them as her offspring. She seemed puzzled that the calves were following her and she just walked away.

Newborn calves don't survive long if they aren't fed soon after birth. The cow allowed Barney to nurse a little, but nudged Betty away from her with her nose. We watched her leave Barney hidden in the grass under the hot sun and totally ignore Betty, who was wandering around to each cow, trying to nurse.

I could almost hear her saying, "Are you my mother?" just like the story in a popular children's book.

As the Boy Scouts say, it is good to be prepared. I went to get the two giant baby bottles, which hold two quarts each and have 3-inch rubber nipples that mimic a cow's udder.

Husband Lowell went to town to get a bag of powdered milk replacement – formula for bovine babies.

Son Jeremy mixed the powder with water and fed the calves. He promptly named them after "Flintstones" cartoon characters Barney and Betty Rubble.

Barney and Betty now make their home in a spacious pen in the barn, shaded from the scorching sun and cooled by breezes from the open doors. They caught on quickly that bottles equal dinner, happily gulping down the formula twice a day. In between feedings and naps, they chew on hay, sniff the water in a bucket and taste-test the sweet-smelling starter feed.

Not a bad way to spend a summer day.