The Calf Heimlich

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So a few post back I wrote a tribute to my most memorable bottle calves (Bottle Calves (or Bucket Calves)) and I mentioned a trio of calves I had which included a calf named Odgoo. I promised to get to this story and here it is.

This has to be one of my most epic ranchwife stories so far.

The cows were being very productive and that year we had a total of six sets of twins. At the current time I had three calves in my care and prided myself on how well I was attending to them. Finally I was doing something right: scoop the poop, hold a bottle, and adore how cute the calves are. Fool proof right? Well, not completely.

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I had figured out that I could be super-efficient by feeding all three calves at once with a bottle in each hand and one between the knees (I know, I am the calf whisper). We had two smaller calves in one pen and a larger heifer calf in a separate pen. This tactic had been working quite well for me and on this cool March night I figured it would be routine. I bundled up and headed to the barn, three warm bottles in tow, my babies bawling for me. Like I had nights before, I started feeding them, three at a time. They hungrily started sucking down the bottles of milk.

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About halfway through her bottle, nursing it like crazy, the heifer, Odgoo, started choking a bit. Concerned, I pulled her bottle away. She stumbled away from me to the corner of the pen, still choking. At the corner of the pen she just fell down on the hay, gasping for air. I dropped the other bottles and rushed into the pen. I began patting her back with mounting concern. Then she stopped breathing.

My heart started beating rapidly and fear flooded my head. I was so scared the heifer calf was going to die and just watching her fade away wasn’t an option in my book. Quickly, I started to think up all I knew about calf anatomy (honestly, at that time, it wasn’t much). I pulled the calf to her feet and wrapped my arms around her chest and began squeezing them together as hard as I could for chest compressions, like calf CPR (the Red Cross would be so proud). Then I ran around and covered her nose with my hands and blew into her mouth. A sigh of relief, she started coughing. Whew. At least she was breathing, however, still choking.

I flung open the barn door, sprinted across the corrals (spooking every horse as I went) and ran to my in-law’s house. I found my father in law, in his easy chair. “THE CALF WON’T STOP CHOKING! Is there some kind of calf CPR I should know?” I frantically told him. He assured me, “you can’t kill a calf with a bottle, it will be fine.” So I went back out to the barn.

The calf was standing there, still choking and gasping. I thought maybe she had something in her mouth when she started sucking the bottle and was choking on it. So I tried a different approach. I wrapped my arms and clasped my fists under just under the rib cage and started the Heimlich maneuver. About the second thrust, she burped loudly out of both ends. She started to breathe more normal, but still fast. I let the other two calves finish their bottles while I monitored her. After about five minutes of normal breathing, I gave her the rest of her bottle and she finished it. I spent the next hour in the barn making sure she was okay.

I did everything I could to save that calf. I gave her CPR, our lips touched. I hoped she would be okay come tomorrow morning. When I went back to the house I tried to tell my husband the story but got frustrated because he was working on the computer and not really paying attention to me so I went home and messaged the entire story of how I almost killed my calf to my sister in law, who found it so amusing she put it on Facebook. My husband apparently saw it and his dad had told him that I came in asking about calf CPR and he thought I was kidding. However, he knew from Facebook that I had been in the barn trying out these maneuvers.

When my husband came home I was doing dishes. “You gave a calf CPR and the Heimlich?” he said when he walked in. I laughed. “I bet you haven’t even washed off your lips!” he added. He was right, so I puckered up to offer him a kiss.

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