Friday, April 20, 2012

A Rough Start

It's been busy around here lately, and I just haven't had any time to keep things updated on here. I apologize for my lack of posts over the last week. Today I am sharing one of the events that combined with numerous others to keep me so busy.
Last Saturday night my parents were up from 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., waiting on a heifer to calve. She finally did, without help, and they headed back to bed. On their way, Parent A told Parent B (names withheld for my protection, lol) to just leave the gate open between the calving lot and our yard area.
Later, Sunday morning, my dad left to feed, and found a heifer laying behind our horse trailers, were no one would see her or think to look, in the yard area. She had been trying to calve for several hours based on how things looked, which wasn't good. He and I immediately pulled the calf right there, and were thankful to find him alive.
We went on about our feeding and left mother and baby alone to do their thing. When we returned a while later, the cow still hadn't gotten up, and wouldn't. This was due to a nerve being pinched during birth - my dad compared it to a human getting a spinal tap. We managed to get her up, and my dad helped her balance by pulling on her tail, but she just staggered around the yard and went down again.
A cow will also be unable to get up if a calf gets hip locked during birth, but fortunately that is not what happened in our case.
The cow needed to get up to get blood flowing back into her rear legs to help her regain control of her back half. The calf also needed to eat, and a calf's first meal of colostrum is especially important in life. Here is what we did to help the cow and her calf on Sunday:

We fabricated a strap in the shop from old hay straps and chains.

Then we got the tractor, and prepared to pick her up and help her stand until she got blood flowing and regained control of her rear end. There was no guarantee our efforts would work, but this is a case where you do everything you can to give the animal the best chance of recovery possible. Sometimes, you have to do this over and over for several days until the cow regains enough strength and coordination to stand by herself. Sometimes they don't ever regain that strength.

Thank goodness she was a nice, gentle heifer, and we worked slow and gently around her so she wouldn't get excited. My dad eased the chain and strap partway under her.
My mother thought she might like a drink, which is why the water is there. My mother was also kind enough to take these photos, so I could share this with you. As you can see, photo taking wasn't very high on my list when this was going on.

Then he pulled her hips over and I grabbed the chain and pulled the strap the rest of the way under her.

We positioned the strap under her flank. We used a strap because it is wide, and less likely to hurt the cow when supporting her compared to a narrow chain or rope.

Then we hooked the chains on the tractor...

and began to slowly lift her back end up.

We worked with the heifer until she was standing..sort of.

We tried to get her back legs positioned so she could, and would, stand on them.

When it became apparent that she wasn't going to be able to stand on her own right then, and we would have to continue working with her, we milked her as much as we could so we could feed her calf the colostrum she produced.

Then we gently laid her back down on the ground when her back legs gave out, and unhooked the chains from the tractor. We just left the strap under her for the next time we lifted her.

Meanwhile, we had moved her calf into our calving shed, because naturally this event occurred on a cold and very windy day. He was never dried off properly and we didn't want him to get chilled. I fed him the colostrum we had milked from his mother, which is far superior to any milk replacer product we had on hand and could have mixed up for him.

Then, since he was still wet and it was so cold and windy, we put one of our calf coats (dog coats) on the big guy...

And packed him back outside to this mother so they could be together and not forget about each other.

Which wasn't a problem. This is how they stayed most of the day. He was worn out from being born, and one of those big and slower moving calves anyway. But, as the day progressed she kept trying to get up, which was encouraging to us.

That evening I took a bottle of milk replacer out to feed her calf. We had decided to let her rest until the following morning, then lift her up again. About halfway through feeding him, she got up! Though very wobbly, she managed to stay up. Here she is in a photo I grabbed from the house. Her calf is laying behind that pile of hay we fed her.
I am happy to report that after another couple days in the corral, where we could feed her and ensure she didn't have to travel a lot for food or water, she and her calf were turned out, and are doing great! That's the kind of ending we always hope for and work toward when situations like this occur.

1 comment:

  1. This is such an awesome post! Thank you to all our ranchers and livestock farmers for the loving care you provide to your animals in the production of vital protein to feed the world. P.S. I love your Achy Breaky Heart t-shirt when you were a kid. It takes a confident woman to offer photographic proof of such an outfit :)