So the other day when the vet was here testing bulls and we were chatting, I asked him if he had ever seen a mummified calf. I was surprised to hear he had. In fact, a rancher brought in a cow to have a calf pulled, and in the right uterine horn was a live calf, and the left horn was a mummified calf.
A lot of people have never heard of a mummified calf nor seen one. I forget how I even learned about them. I’ve read they are somewhat rare, occurring in only 2% of births or less. Calf mummification occurs when a cow aborts a fetus due to some reason (illness, uterine or umbilical torsion, abnormalities in the pregnancy) and instead of the cow expelling the fetus like normal, it is dried up and dehydrated due to the absorption of amniotic fluids. Cows carrying a mummified calf will appear normal and healthy most of the time.
The calf can be seen in ultrasounds, and can be felt per examination. It will feel like a hard mass in the cow not surrounded by any fluids.
Some people may call this creepy, disturbing, or gross. I find it fascinating. Nature never stops amazing me.
There is actually very little information on the web about the subject but I did find an article in a Canadian Veterinary Journal where they were studying methods for extracting a mummified fetus that includes a lot of information on them:
We have never had a mummified calf on the ranch. Yesterday we did have another backwards calf (to see pulling a backwards calf, see post Backwards Calf).
Earlier in the day she caused quite the ruckus while trying to claim another cows calf. We seem to have this problem with cows claiming other’s calves when they are in the first stage of parturition. Maybe it’s the breed? I think you could put two Angus cows in a 10 section pasture and when it came time to calve they would find each other and confuse their calves.
The calf she was trying to claim needed tagged and neither cow was happy to let us do so and they were both quite aggressive. My husband said he was more afraid of getting hit with my shovel than a cow in those situation as I swing a lot when trying to keep two cows away.
My husband used his skills to chase the cow into a pen by the arena and we shut her in to calve….only to let her out an hour later because a storm was coming and the pen provided no shelter from the wind and precipitation. We figured she’d calve when we let her out. One hour into the darkness of the night, my husband saddled his horse and went to bring her in.
The cow was so well behaved. She walked into the calving chute calmly and didn’t even pause. She stood still the entire time we pulled the calf and then calmly backed out, walked to the stall, and started cleaning her calf. Model cow.
The snow came and it wasn’t a lot but it was icy and windy too. I guess this is just spring here….