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Insurance for when you assume…

May 18, 2008

Calf story – but nothing to do with JettaSorry…

Remember that frozen colostrum I showed last week?  I have frozen colostrum every year since getting my first milk cow, and have rarely needed it.  After calving season, it becomes part of the pig treats that we find in the freezer.  We have loaned colostrum to neighbors and they have paid back the favor.  Since we have started calving later in the season to avoid feeding the cougar population, we haven’t had any half-frozen calves, or problem births resulting in the need for us to intervene and feed a calf.  But, you never know, and I still freeze it out of habit.  I needed it yesterday – not for Jetta, she’s still going for a record and I have quit worrying (a little). 😉

It is for this little fawn of a calf – named Lath by my daughter.

Remember that calf from the other day, who I hoped would still like me when it came time to make him a steer?  This is his twin sister!  How could that be?  Welllll, my mom would say I was asleep at the switch, or something of that nature.  But, it is because I am an over-analyzing, take charge, make assumptions, kind of farmer.  We all know the saying about assume.  Well, it’s true in my case.  (Make note of the words that start with A in analyze and assume). 

Here are the mistakes I made, and clues I disregarded, which play over and over in my mind’s eye:

•  Two weeks ago, I noticed a cow looked bloated, knowing that she couldn’t be bloated, because we don’t fertilize with chemical fertilizer, our legumes aren’t out of balance, and we keep our grain supply under lock and key.  I assumed her calf was just changing position.  Which it did, after two hours, you could see that the calf had dropped.  No worries here, but I remembered how tight her left side was.  Didn’t think of twins.

•  On Thursday, I knew we had a new calf, because I saw buzzards in a tree near where the cows were lounging while I built their new fence.  On further inspection, I noticed a large placenta, that the buzzards where patiently waiting for.  Usually the cow eats quite a bit of it, which helps to shrink the uterus and prolong colostrum production, by causing more oxytocin to be released.  It appeared that none of it had been eaten.  Another mental picture.  Didn’t think of twins.

•  On Friday, we took Brooks, (Della’s last years calf) over to the herd, since they were within a 1/4 mile.  We noticed a new calf.  When I looked at the calf, it looked small like a heifer, and it looked like it had dairy breeding.  The calf got up and came to me like I was its mother, then it trotted off like new calves do, and started going up to every steer it could find and tried to nurse.  Of course, the guys were embarrassed by this, and shooed the calf away.  Puzzling, was the fact that the cows that hadn’t calved yet, were unconcerned.  This was my worst mistake.  We have one cow I have been thinking of culling, she is too fat, has poor calves and some hoof problems.  Immediately, I was thinking, “It’s the freezer for you, Sylvia!”  “Why aren’t you taking your calf?”  “Where’s your milk?” Blah blah blah.  I was just sure this was the mom, and since I was gunning for her, I assumed she had her calf.  Didn’t think of twins.

•  We watched for a while on Friday, and the calf wandered from cow to cow and no one claimed her.  I did make note that her umbilical was dried up.  I was still mad at Sylvie.  Didn’t think of twins.

•  We noticed one ear was misshaped.  Classic crowded uterus sign.  Didn’t think of twins.

• Saturday morning, I went to check on the cows and to see if Brooks was fitting in, and if Sylvie had finally accepted her calf.  Brooks was begging me to come back, by promising to be a good lawn mower, never to stand on my foot again, and vowing not to butt me from behind, when I wasn’t looking.  But, I waved him off.  The Calf wasn’t there.  Sylvie was just lying there chewing her cud quite nonchalantly.  By now, I was starting to get perturbed.  I sounded like the guy who walks by everyday cussing out his dog.  Of course, the cows are used to my ranting, and they knew they weren’t being bad.  So they just waved me off.  I marched over to Sylvie and lifted her tail, (this about like going in for your yearly check-up) Uh-oh, a big ropey, string of cervical mucous!  Oops – she hasn’t had a calf yet.  The cows can tell when I’m embarrassed, and because they like me, they tried not to rub it in, since all of them except Jetta have had more babies than me. :O  I thought of twins!!!!

•  Now the hunt was on.  The main trail that all the wild animals use, (prey and predator) is about 100 feet from our house, and the dogs had been wild all night.  Barking their “big animal near!” barks.  Having an over-active imagination, my first thought was that the calf was cougar crap by now.  We methodically searched the fields and the fringe of Cougar Heaven, but to no avail.  My daughter suggested looking where the calf was born.  Maybe if the calf had enough instinct to find the herd in the first place, she might go back to where her mom could find her.  Smart Kid!!  As we were searching, we were relieved that we weren’t seeing any buzzards.  So maybe we could still find this calf.  I was worried though, we had been having temperatures in the high 90’s, if we found the calf,  the chances it would be severely dehydrated were great.
We went to check out the birthplace – there she was, patiently waiting.  She was weak enough, that she wasn’t hard to catch.  A quick ride in the pickup and she was home.  Raising a calf on a bucket definitely was not in my plans this summer.  Sigh.

That colostrum is coming in handy.

Aunt Della looks on.  “Who’s that in my stall?”

We fed her a pint of warmed colostrum every hour for 3 feedings and then increased the time in between to 2 hours, and then 3, with the final evening feeding at 11:00 p.m.  We also gave her Carbo Vegetabilis 30C, 3 different doses, for weakened vitality.  Her butt was pasted up with what appeared to be meconium.  By the last feeding, last night, she had pooped, which was a good sign.  She’s very vigorous, which leads me to believe that she may have gotten at least a drink on her mom before she decided not to take her.  Each hour after a baby is born, the intestines absorb less and less antibody- rich colostrum.  So this is an important step.  Now I’m feeding her Della’s milk, while not ideal because Della is in late lactation, it is better than milk replacer.  I still have two quarts of colostrum left – I’m not out of the woods yet, as far as calving goes.

In cattle, multiple births are usually not welcome.  It isn’t a free calf.  This cow always has a nice sized calf, but these will both be runts.  She grew two calves larger than one would be, which will drag her down. Everyone is shortchanged on this deal.

The cow mom in question, is half-Guernsey, half-Hereford.  She doesn’t have a huge udder, and she always throws nice calves.  I’m surprised she didn’t take both, as she has very strong mothering instincts.  She is Della’s half sister, but they weren’t raised together.  Every time they are together though, they bond and hang out together.  Yesterday, Della showed up right away after we brought this calf home.  Do you think she knew it was her niece?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristen permalink
    May 19, 2008 5:00 am

    I was on the edge of my seat while I was reading your post. I am so glad you found the baby. Such a cute little thing.

  2. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 19, 2008 6:04 am

    Kristen, she is a doll. I’m sad she can’t be with her mom.

  3. May 19, 2008 8:44 am

    Glad you found your baby. We have had adventures like that too and it is always a huge relief when the outcome is good. We save and share colostrum too and have even given some to sheep farming friends.

  4. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 19, 2008 9:05 am

    threecollie, thanks, she is running around this morning with her flag up – so that’s a good sign.
    It is a relief to have found her, but I still feel silly for not paying more attention. There aren’t any sheep farmers close by, but we have shared with friends who had foals and goats, and it seemed to help.

  5. May 19, 2008 10:57 am

    What a relief that – so far – she seems to be doing so well! I can’t believe how much anxiety I felt when you went looking for her – well told story, with the details that teach us all.

  6. May 19, 2008 11:04 am

    We usually get a couple of sets of twins (not yet this year) but can graft them on to a cow that’s lost a calf or at least one of the neighbors. I’m so glad you found here and figured out what was going on.

  7. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 19, 2008 10:14 pm

    Hayden, she is doing very well. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find her! We let out a big whoop when we did. The old windfall logs in the woods are brownish and can trick you into thinking you are seeing a cow or calf. I hope you didn’t feel too much apprehension. On a livestock farm there is hardly a dull moment.

    Linda, we’ve grafted calves before, but this time I didn’t have anybody available. I’m going to dry up the one milk cow soon, but I may try this calf on Jetta. We had one set of twins last year, but before that it had been at least 20 years. I would be happy to go 20 more.

  8. May 20, 2008 9:00 am

    Such a beautiful post! The pictures were so lovely that I grabbed my husband and showed him. I hope you don’t mind but we printed them out and placed them in our dreambook. That book is a scrapbook of pictures that embody our hopes and plans for our future farm.


  9. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    May 20, 2008 9:39 am

    Lacy, thank you – that is a very nice compliment indeed!

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