It’s an unlikely pairing born out of necessity, but a Brahman cow has embraced motherhood by adopting an orphaned brumby foal on a far north Queensland cattle station.
Mount Garnet grazier Rob O’Shea recently noticed the wild foal around the cattle herd on his Tablelands property after its mother died.
What happened next left him scratching his head.
“I saw a cow looking after it,” Mr O’Shea said.
“The little foal was sucking the cow … I’ve never seen that in my life before.”
The cow had never calved, according to Mr O’Shea, but it was content to take on the role of stepmother.
“That cow is worth her weight in gold,” he said. “Looks like she would take anything on to rear it.”
The foal has been welcomed into the herd.
“Now she sleeps with all the calves,” Mr O’Shea said.
“It whinnies to the cow and the cow bellows and answers it.
“She bathes it and she’s made a real mother of it.”
A social media post about the animals’ bond has gone viral, with thousands of likes, shares and hundreds of comments.
Mr O’Shea puts the interest down to the strangeness of the pairing.
“Whoever I showed it to, they’ve never seen it in their life and probably never see it again,” he said.
James Cook University associate professor of animal reproduction John Cavalieri said foals were critically dependent on milk for survival.
They need to consume about 20 to 25 per cent of their body weight in milk each day.
“If cows were the only thing that were available, it would potentially gravitate towards a cow,” he said.
“What’s unusual in this case is that most cows reject any attempts even by other calves to suckle.”
Dr Cavalieri said there were differences between cow’s milk and horse’s milk.
“If you do have an orphaned foal, we usually would recommend another mare’s milk being provided,” he said.
“You can use goat’s milk or cow’s milk and supplement it with a little bit of extra lactose, so it’s not impossible.”
But it seems all good things must come to an end.
Mr O’Shea said while the foal was in a good condition, he had found it a new home.