by Frank Gringeri

At first light, I roll out of bed and look across the road to the night pasture. From the second story of the house, you can see all the cattle laying about getting ready to start the day. Every morning I look to see if something is out of place. Here’s what I saw that morning as #58 was acting differently.

It’s before fly season and all was quiet except for #58. She was swishing her tail and looking at her side. She was uncomfortable and was kicking her belly from time to time. Every now and then she would smell the ground. She wasn’t moving, just standing there acting odd. I thought she was close up as she was filled with milk and sunken about the tail head. No cervical plug had been released and there was no discharge as of yet.

About half past noon, her water bag was showing and she was getting up and down and then moving to another spot she liked better. For some reason, we had quite a few born in broad daylight as opposed to late night or early morning in the dark. By 1:30 she had the front legs out and was trying hard to proceed. I try my best not to interfere when things are looking normal. But, another hour passed and no more calf showing. She was getting tired and laid down, slab sided, and stopped trying. It was time to intervene.

We loaded the four-wheeler up with the usual tools: calf puller, chains and handles, warm water/disinfectant jug, lube and assorted meds. We also had a small hand pump we use to pump lube into the placenta to get it where it can do some good. Along with iodine for the cord, we headed to the field.

It had been windy and straight up sun all day. She didn’t move and we proceeded to wash and lube up. The vaginal opening had gotten dry with the weather and everything was at a standstill. It was a normal presentation with the tip of the nose and tongue showing. Some gentle pulls with the chains and handles and the head advanced easily, thanks to the pumped-in lube. The calf was out and on the ground within minutes but very stressed. Her head was swollen as well as her tongue. I dried her off as the mother was resting and given meds for all the hardship. With all the swelling it was obvious the calf couldn’t swallow, let alone nurse. We had the stomach tube feeder ready and we filled her up with colostrum. It took two days for the swelling to go down and that’s why the tube feeder is so invaluable. Two more feedings and she was able to take a bottle. We do our best not to have a bottle baby as being with their mom is the best way for a calf to grow up. But in this case, it took too much time to get her right and the cow wouldn’t own up to her.

The calf is with an older bottle calf now that can teach her to eat grass and hay and drink water out of a bucket. They can also exercise each other as they grow. By autumn, they will be out with the rest of the herd but until then we will give them the care they need in a small pasture of their own. Sometimes Mother Nature needs a helping hand when things don’t always go as planned. It just feels right to give help when needed. They give us so much in return.