Instinct is something we are born with and do without thinking. Cows know when the birth of their calf is close. They wander away from the herd, finding a quiet, private spot as contractions begin. Some walk around and then lie down to bring their calf into the world. Others stand, working with gravity as their calf more plops into the world. Either way, as soon as those hind hooves emerge, Mama Cow is up, lowing to her calf with a gentle humming intensity, as she licks him off quite vigorously.
Meanwhile, the calf seems somewhat stunned as that tongue lashes over his wet body, head to tail, and within minutes begins to try to stand. Wobbly and uncertain, something drives him to balance on four spindly legs, all the while Mama’s tongue continues to work, often knocking him down again. But always with that low humming sound he soon learns to recognize and repeat back to her.
Once up, he totters around searching Mama Cow until he finds a teat and tentatively tries to suck. There are hits and misses and tumbles back to the ground (that tongue again) until he finally manages to latch on and drink his fill.
Satiated, the calf curls back to the ground to sleep, Mama making sure he’s cleaned off. She stands by or folds up next to him, putting her own needs off for hours until he’s strong enough to follow her to the stock tank or to feed. It is amazing to witness. Every. Single. Time.