March 16, 2007

getting to the "all hell breaks loose" part

When I fed hay last Friday, I noticed a couple of cows that looked like they might be about to calve. I relayed my suspicions and predicted we'd have our first babies by morning. Given my relative inexperience, I'm not sure anyone took me too seriously. Adam and Azure arrived late that night and the next morning Adam found 3 new babies. There have been an increasing number born each day since - I think we had about 13 yesterday. So far everything is going pretty well, but that's not to say there haven't been a few little tragedies.

Adam came in one morning and asked if I could come help him. There was a prolapsed cow and he wanted to try to get her back to the barn. Adam caught her calf and put him in the back of the pick-up. I started driving towards the house and she followed for about 50 yards before collapsing. She was probably in shock and it was an especially bad prolapse, so he decided we'd just have to work on her out in the pasture. Adam knew that there was basically no chance of her surviving, but it was probably for the best that I nievely thought we could still save her. We came back to the house to get supplies: warm water, plastic sheeting, and the medical kit. Azure came along with us as well.

I hadn't expected to have to do much other than trying to keep the cow from getting up. But before long I was gloved up to my shoulders and right in there with Adam, leaving Azure to hold the tail. We probably spent over an hour working on her. She died as Adam tied the last suture. We all three were exhausted, but as Adam said 'we made a valiant effort'. None of us had ever seen a prolapse put in, but you'd have never known that Adam hadn't done it before - he was calm and determined throughout the entire ordeal. Apparently, he'd covered this very procedure in one of his classes the week before - we were all joking that he'd have to go back and tell his professor a thing or two about how it isn't quite as easy in 'real life' as he'd made it seem 'on paper'.

We tracked down her calf and brought him back with us - a little bull, red with a white face: our first 'bucket calf'. By the time I got back from feeding hay that evening there was a second bucket calf. We think she was probably a twin, but her mother only claimed the other twin. It took them a couple of tries to figure out how to suckle the bottle, but now they are both doing really well. And of course they think I'm their mother now, which is pretty endearing.

We lost a calf last night, so they're trying to 'make a match' now. The cow that lost her calf and the calf who lost his mother a few days ago are in 'solitary confinement' together in calving barn now. Hopefully her maternal instincts will kick in and she'll adopt this other baby as her own. Since the cow identifies her baby in large part by its smell, they drapped the hide of the cow's lost calf over the orphan, to trick the cow into thinking it's her own.

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