Thursday, February 23, 2012

Calf chronicles two

There are some calves that cause us to worry even before they are born. You can just tell that something is wrong. When we went to feed to brood cows the other day we noticed that one of our older cows, Teardrop, was showing signs of a distressed labor. We came back a few hours later to check on her and no progress. We stopped by the hayshed several times in the afternoon and evening and still no impending signs of delivery.

The next morning when Lloyd checked on her she had delivered her calf but it was listless and weak. As added confirmation of the long and difficult labor, the calf was stained bright yellow. This meconium staining occurs when the calf has a bowel movement in utero which is a sign of fetal distress. We toweled the little heifer dry (of course she was born right on a windy nub) to keep her from losing too much heat. This extra stimulation helps to get blood flowing to the extremities.

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All the while Teardrop looked on and occasionally stepped in for a consoling lick or moo. She is also a trusting old cow and once she realized that we were trying to help her baby, she took off to the hayshed for a quick bite.

The calf was still very weak, lacked any suckle response and made no effort to try to stand. We tried to get her to take a bottle but the suckle reflex was just not there and we ended up having to insert a feeding tube into the stomach to get some sustenance in her. Without any form of nourishment, the calf would likely die. Even so, calves with "Weak Calf Syndrome" have an uphill battle to fight and rarely make it.

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When Lloyd and Nathan returned in the evening to tube her again, she looked alert and clear in the eyes. She eagerly took the bottle but still didn't show too many signs of being able to get up. Nathan and Lloyd moved the calf down into a little canyon out of the wind and Teardrop followed to settle down for the night.

The next day not only had the calf been up to nurse but it had moved from the spot we left it. Teardrop was being a good mother by staying close and laying upwind of the calf to shield it from the cold.

Today when we went to feed at the hayshed the calf was a little wobbly but still able to nurse and follow mama around. It is progress.

I'm not quite ready to cross this one off the list as "resolved" but I think we are headed in the proper direction. As frustrating and difficult as it is to intervene, sometimes those actions mean the difference between a calf that makes it and one that does not. Here's to hoping this situation turns out well.

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