When you think of grafting in the Central Valley of California, generally horticulture comes to mind. Every citrus, peach, plum, nectarine, and a whole bunch of others are all grafted from a rootstock to the particular desired variety of fruit. This is a very intricate and precise process, an experienced grafter can make it look easy. It is not, but the results can be pretty impressive. I’ve seen a peach tree that also had plums and nectarines grafted in, kind of a cool thing. Although lesser known, grafting also occurs within the beef cattle business, and here’s how. During calving season, all cows are scheduled to calve for about sixty days. So every day there could be several calves born, and just like anything else, things will go not as planned. Cows can die during calving, and sometimes calves are born dead or can die shortly after being born.

So here is the problem, an orphaned calf will need to be bottle fed 2 to 3 times a day, for about 4 months. That calf will not develop normally, it will be about half the size of its mates, and because the calf doesn’t get natural antibodies from nursing, it is susceptible to scours, which is a viral diarrhea that is fatal half the time. I usually give the calf away to someone for free, knowing I don’t have the time and the chance of survival is poor.

But if by chance you have a cow die after delivering a healthy calf and also a calf born dead from another cow, there is a solution for the surviving cow and calf, a graft!

Here is how it’s done. The dead calf’s hide is removed and tied over the surviving calf, hair side out. Now this looks really funny to you and I, but it’s not about appearance, it’s about scent! The cow only cares about the calf’s scent, nothing else. The calf just wants to nurse and it doesn’t care which cow is supplying the milk, it just wants to not get kicked. The calf with the dead calf’s hide is then turned out into a small pen with the cow. The cow smells her scent from her dead calf’s hide and immediately accepts the calf as her own, letting it nurse by standing still. The calf is starving for fresh milk, scent doesn’t matter at all. The hide can be removed from the calf in 2 or 3 days (it’s starting to stink!). By then the calf is emitting the cow’s scent through its hair and manure and the graft is complete. Both can then be turned out with the other cows and calves.

I’ve done this a couple of dozen times, and it’s been successful every time. The calf will develop just like all the others, with no size difference. This type of grafting was borrowed/stolen from sheepherders, who have been using it for thousands of years.

This always makes me think of the gospel. It reminds me that without Jesus covering our sins, we have no hope of be accepted by the Father. Being grafted into Gods family gives us a hope and future.

"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree."

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Scott Johnson

Founder & Mentor