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This and That and a New Baby in the Barn

October 19, 2015
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Jane and Raylan, October 9, 2015

Well, the big news is Jane had her calf…actually she had two, two weeks early.  And the other sobering news is that I twisted my knee about two days after Jane’s difficult calving and this is the first day I can sit at the computer with my knee bent.  Ugh.  So while I had good intentions about blogging and such, it just wasn’t  going to happen.  I haven’t been able to move my cows, milk, or do much of anything.  Stairs everywhere I look, and let me tell you it’s a long way to the garden and greenhouse on crutches.  But each day is getting better, Hangdog and Ruthless know the drill, and I have been able to at least feed them, so while they are filling in for me besides all their regular chores at least they don’t have to worry about cooking too.

Jane was due October 20th, and I had semi been getting ready.  Milk fever boluses ordered, vet called, stocked up on molasses, and fresh cow homeopathics, stalls cleaned and freshly bedded, and buckets and bottles at the ready.

October 6, 2015 p.m.

October 6, 2015 p.m.

I was also transitioning Jane back onto her rolled barley ration too, and reestablishing chore time.  Vacay was about to be over for both of us.  No more languishing in the pasture for Jane, or hitting the snooze for me.  Routine is everything to cattle, and by bringing Jane in at night and feeding her, I could give her a good look-over and check her for signs of calving.  Observation is everything in farming, subtle clues are so important.  On Tuesday, October 6th I noticed Jane’s udder was quite a bit fuller since I had last laid eyes on her that morning, and her pins had dropped considerably.  What the heck? October 20th was still two weeks away.  I know that a cow can calve two weeks or so either side of her due date, and usually a cow is pretty consistent, early, late or on time.  Jane had been on time with a heifer, and late with two bull calves.  Could it be?  Early?  Heifer?  Happy heifer dance.  I thought birth was pretty imminent so I got up every two hours that night to check on Jane.  Nothing but interrupted sleep for both of us.

October 7th, 2015

October 7th, 2015

Still nothing the next morning so we went about our chores as usual, and when I came back to the barn from moving the beef cows, I saw Jane lying down in this position with a hint of a water bag showing. Finally! We started the vigil, Jane taking no notice as she was in active labor.

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She pushed a bit, and then the water bag came out, and kept coming.  Ruthless and I exchanged worried glances, and she asked me, “Is that normal?”  I shook my head No.  “Not really, too big, and odd-shaped.”  I’ve seen quite a few births, but have missed more because the beef cows usually have some privacy when they calve, so I was hoping to myself I was wrong and needlessly worried.  The beef cows rarely have problems, so we don’t pester them like we do the house cow.  I’m not saying we ignore them, we know who is going to calve and when pretty much, we look for the same signs as we do on the milk cow, but I don’t worry as much, there is so much less to go wrong without all that pesky milk production breeding.

What I saw that doesn’t really show in the photo were a few cotyledons, the places where the bovine placenta attaches.  You usually don’t see that until after the calf is born. Crap.  I immediately went to the house and called the vet.  He was a little nonplussed because we had just spoke the day before when I called to see what days he would be on vacation or available towards the end of the month.  I explained the placenta with no first bag of waters and he quickly said, “I’ll be there ASAP.”  Of course, ASAP means 30 minutes at least if he leadfoots it here, he lives that far away and then there is traffic even on the back way.

Once Jane stood the water bag started to leak and she started looking for her calf, all perfectly normal in the course of a calf being born.  But there was no calf. When the vet pulled in we breathed a big sigh of relief.  I was pretty heartsick knowing that the calf that went with that big bag of amniotic fluid was most likely dead.  I always start out hoping for a heifer when Jane is bred, then as the months go by, I start hoping for a good outcome for mom and baby – a healthy calf of either sex and robust mama cow.  And then this happens and I get to the point where I am just worried about Jane remaining upright and alive. Since Dickie had been born, things hadn’t been quite right with Jane, she was oddly lopsided, normally a cow carries her full rumen on the left side, and when the calf starts to grow in the last trimester you see the calf on the right side.  Jane has every thing on the right, and it makes her list as she walks.  Needless to say, it had worried me but she seemed fine, so I hadn’t really done anything other than mention it to the vet, who without looking didn’t really offer any advice. It was equal parts worrisome and not worrisome.

The vet arrived in 30 minutes which seemed like days and seconds all at the same time.  Stress is such a time warper.  He gathered his calf jack, ob chains, gloves etc. and got to work.  First exam revealed a calf in proper position but not moving away from the vet’s touch.  Dead. Which explained the huge amount of amniotic fluid and cotyledons presenting before the calf.  He secured the ob chains and the calf jack and proceeded to pull the calf.  He appeared to be dead, and no amount of reviving did any good.  While Jane tended to her dead calf, we talked again about her lopsidedness, and the vet speculated about a ruptured tendon as the cause.  He wanted to examine Jane further just to make sure she wasn’t carrying another calf, and sure enough his hunch was right, and the good news was that this calf had its own intact placenta.  The bad news, he was presented back feet first.  Not good.  Another pull.  So I steadied Jane while he attached the ob chains to the second calf and positioned the calf jack.  I let go of Jane while he pulled lest she fell and injured one of us.  I was off to the side when the calf came out, and I thought I saw a slight movement like he blinked his eye. But I am sure you have experienced that moment when you wish for something, you almost think you see it.

Jane, Raylan getting his lungs drained and his brother behind Jane.

Jane, Raylan getting his lungs drained and his brother behind Jane.

I did see movement, he was trying to breathe but his lungs were filled with amniotic fluid, taken in at that critical time when the umbilical breaks and the baby starts to breath.  He pulled the sac away and got the calf moving and wiped as much fluid from his nostrils as he could.  The vet advised leaving him hang a minute upside down  a while to drain more fluid while he regrouped to tend Jane further and to get the calf going.

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A couple of minutes later, you would never know what these two had been through.  Phew!  Sigh of relief.  A live calf, mama standing up, and humans not too much worse for wear.

To be continued…

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. Cookie Roscoe permalink
    October 19, 2015 4:08 pm

    So sorry to hear about your knee. Thanks for this update! You had me feeling like I was right there along with you.

    • October 19, 2015 8:36 pm

      Thanks! I hope to be blogging more now that the days are getting shorter and there is less to do outside.

  2. October 19, 2015 4:26 pm

    Sorry about the first one, but I guess that happens. It’s just too bad, though.

    But that little Raylan sure is a cute little boy!

  3. October 19, 2015 5:03 pm

    I’m so sorry about your knee! I kept meaning to comment months ago about your husband’s illness — it sounds like it’s been a tough year all around for you all. I hope you can rest and recover…and finish part two of this post soon!

    • October 19, 2015 8:35 pm

      Anna, all I see is everything that needs moving in, and taken care of in the garden. Milking, and fence building is being handled but garden stuff is happening pretty slow and we are about due for a freeze 😦

  4. Barbara permalink
    October 19, 2015 5:21 pm

    Blessings on all of you. Oh my.

  5. October 19, 2015 5:56 pm

    I was on pins and needles reading this post! So sorry about the first calf and your injury – when it rains it pours. Raylan is adorable – glad he and Jane are doing well.
    Is he named after “Justified” Raylan?
    Hope you mend soon.

    • October 19, 2015 8:33 pm

      Thanks so much! Raylan is one tall drink of water, just like Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens. Boyd and Ava are in the freezer (pigs) so Raylan it was.

  6. barefootfarmflower permalink
    October 19, 2015 6:06 pm

    Oh, my stomach was all clenched up reading your post. I felt heartsick at the loss of the first calf and had to scroll down to see if there were any pics of a live calf before I could read the rest. Having a house cow is one of life’s greatest gifts. And along with that gift comes so much angst. I sighed with relief that your Jane made it through, and that you have one calf in the end. I know how important that calf will be in the future- helping with the milk surplus and providing food in a couple of years. Here’s to an uneventful winter, a bountiful milk supply, healthy cow and healthy milk maid and husband.

    • October 19, 2015 8:30 pm

      Thanks so much, you totally understand. That calf is a blessing in so many ways. Hope your season is slowing down for you!

  7. Bee permalink
    October 19, 2015 6:12 pm

    Tough time all around, Nita! I know what it’s like to lose one, and reading between the lines, it was obviously touch and go for Raylan. Not to mention the knee injury — ouch. And Ruthless has her hands full with you on crutches. Lucky she and Handog can step in and pick up the slack. Hope you’re all doing better!

    • October 19, 2015 8:29 pm

      Bee, I was crutch free today and the bull went home this weekend so heifers are off the chore list, and I’ve started calling Ruthless the Milk Whisperer. You couldn’t ask for a better helper, and Jane is such an easy cow, she is so tolerant.

  8. October 19, 2015 6:22 pm

    Merciful heavens.. c

  9. Allisa Imming permalink
    October 19, 2015 6:28 pm

    Holy WOW!

    Sorry about your knee 🙂

  10. elaine permalink
    October 19, 2015 6:31 pm

    So sorry about your knee… dang! What pins & needles, though! I am so happy everyone is doing well! What a cutie with a very proud mama 🙂 Hope that knee is much better soon!!

  11. October 19, 2015 10:34 pm

    Congratulations. Farmer friend 50ish walked a 16 ft hog panel across a field over his head a few weeks back and I had a word next meeting… yep he’s feeling it… we either train up young ones or prepare to shack-up in the barn with planty of imbibables…

  12. October 19, 2015 10:58 pm

    So glad there´s a reasonably happy ending!! Congratulations to Jane, and to you on your knee recovery.

  13. Carrie permalink
    October 19, 2015 11:36 pm

    Greetings from the UK. Unfortunate about the knee… or put another way, what a *.* pain in the arse! It’s good news is that Jane is OK though and the little bull calf is healthy. I hope the dead calf was not a heifer – that would have been doubly depressing. Is their any solution for Jane’s (possible) torn ligament or will she continue to carry to one side? Would that perhaps make AI the better choice?
    Glad you’re off the crutches… And that the bull has gone home!

    • October 20, 2015 7:22 am

      Carrie, exactly, invalid is the correct word – in valid. Ugh. If the calf was a heifer is would be a freemartin, unable to breed because of reproductive issues caused by the testosterone of the bull calf, although I have heard that Guernseys have a higher percentage of non freemartin heifers, but I don’t have any experience in that regard with my Guernseys. Because there were two placentas it may have been okay in the case of a heifer.

      Geez I haven’t been on crutches in 40 years! Just like riding a bike, you get the hang of it pretty quick 🙂 I am glad the bull is gone too, he was a good boy, but it’s pain keeping everyone separate, and the best part this bull guy is a nice guy, no off-color jokes just no nonsense and business-like.

  14. October 19, 2015 11:57 pm

    What a roller coaster! A safe outcome for mama is always at the top of the checklist, then a healthy babe (check) and a healthy milkmaid (Oh bother! – and other rude words). Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else dear Matron. Speedy recovery and many thanks to Hangdog and Ruthless.

  15. scottishsoapmaker permalink
    October 20, 2015 12:25 am

    What a challenging time you are having.
    Thank goodness Jane and the second calf are safe.
    I do hope that your knee recovers soon and that the pain is under control meantime
    Wishing all the best to all of you.

  16. October 20, 2015 9:17 am

    Having lost a baby alpaca again this year, I truly sympathise. Glad you have one consolation baby, they are always a joy. Certainly it has not been a good year for you this year. May the year ahead dawn brighter for you.

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