Life and Death 2/24/2014

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Last night was anything but uneventful. We had brought in our heifers in anticipation of a very cold, windy calving night. We put two heifers in the barn to calve right off. One heifer calved, the other made no progress. We ended up pulling the calf, which was sadly stillborn. In my experience, I have never seen a cow or heifer give birth to a stillborn calf without assistance. When a person goes to assist in birth and they grab the hock of the calf’s leg, they should feel it pull back a bit. This is a sign of life in the calf. In our situation, the calf was dead before we pulled it. These situations are always heartbreaking, especially when it’s a first calf heifer.

If the cow’s calf dies in the womb and is not pulled soon, the body will start to decompose it. In these cases it’s best to enlist the help of a qualified veterinarian to extract the calf and administer the proper medication to the cow. It’s best if this is done as soon as possible for the health of the cow.

I could go into a very long post about what leads up to pulling a calf, but then I would have very little left to blog about. So I’ll spread it out and start at the beginning. We’ve sorted our heavies, and the cattle are calving. Next thing is to check them regularly.

We check our heavies every two hours. In the distant past, we would check them all through the night. My mother-in-law had this duty. Night after night she would get out of bed every two hours to check and years went by and nothing ever happened. So finally, she decided to quit the night check. Last check now is about 11 or 11:30 ish. First check of the day is at about 4 am.

Tonight is different though, tonight is bite at your cheeks cold. We brought the heifers into the corral and I personally get the night shift (I’m a night owl and whoever night checks gets a free pass to sleep in, I’m there!). Sometimes I take the dogs with me but only if they haven’t found something gross to roll in lately (such as after birth).

Interesting things happen on cold blizzarding night checks. One night at 3:00 am, I found myself standing in a blizzard apologizing to a cow. She had recently calved a very small calf. When I drove through the calving lot, I never saw the calf. Afraid I would run over it if it was buried under snow, I went to the cow who was laying under the tree row and got out to force her up and lead me to her calf. It was then that I realized she had the calf tucked in so closely to her that I never saw it. I felt so bad I stood there apologizing to her that I had ever doubted her as a mother before I realized how ridiculous I was.

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