Monday Big Adventures

Once the sheep were taken to their roadbank grazing spot, it was time to check the cows.  Last night, there was a heifer starting to calve, but it was getting dark, so I left.  Unfortunately, today was an unhappy discovery for her.  The black Corriente heifer was still alive and sitting up, but no calf.  She actually let me approach her in the pasture to check her from behind, but I didn’t even need to go inside – there was about an inch of calf tail sticking out.  Of all the ways a cow can deliver a calf – tail first (breech) is NOT one of them.

Dallas and I easily walked her the 1/4 mile to the corral, after which Dallas roped her and I tied her.  Thankfully, she is a very docile young cow although she was not feeling well at all.  Off came the gloves and coat and with sleeves shoved up, I gently inserted my hand into her birth canal.  She was very tight, no doubt her body was already shutting down and there was very little dilation at this point.  So I just kept working in until I could start identifying body parts.  Sure enough, just past the tail and butt, there were both hocks.  Though she was pushing with all her might, I had to push back harder and get that dead calf back into the womb where there would be enough room to pull the hooves up and out.  This was especially challenging, because not only was she pushing, but she is a small frame, first calf heifer.  Thankfully, the calf was very small.  However, it still took over 20 minutes before I had the hooves out far enough to get the OB chains properly wrapped about the fetlocks.

My hand and forearm was pretty tired by this time, so Dallas took over on pulling the calf out.  With a bit of instruction, he did a good job.  The calf was dry, so this is a hard pull and we only had the OB chain and handles – no mechanical calf puller.  We’d pull hard when the cow pushed, rested when she rested, and made decent progress until the shoulders and head.  We had to get more leverage!

Dallas came up with the idea of using the Gator.  Perfect!  After switching to the ball hitch, I backed up close enough to loop the OB chain over the ball.  Alas, when I moved forward, I was pulling the cow and still the calf would not dislodge from her.  I noticed that when I moved the carcass, it gave a bit, so, since Dallas was getting a bit squeamish by this point, I had him ease forward in the Gator, while I jumped up and down on the suspended dead calf.  Just what was needed – the calf popped right out- swollen head and all.

While Dallas dragged the dead calf off, I massaged the abdomen of the heifer – there is a lot of yucky stuff in her.  We rolled her over so that she would have an easier time of standing on the slight slope and left her to rest while we headed back to the other side of the farm to put the sheep in the pasture for the evening.  By the time we got back to the heifer, she was gone.  Hooray!  She had walked a half a quarter to the ditch for a drink.  Unfortunately, I did not have any antibiotics to give her and she is still hurting.  Time will tell whether or not she will live.

From the time we roped her to the time the calf was out was at least an hour.  She is one tough and well-behaved heifer – I cannot image the pain she endured so stoically, but at least now she has a chance of surviving.

Now, with hands and arms covered with blood, feces, and dead calf slime, I’m starting to stink.  Looking forward to washing coat, clothes, gloves and scrubbing in the shower.  However, the dead calf smell won’t come off until it wears off.

2 thoughts on “Monday Big Adventures”

  1. Wow! I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to endure this! I really hope the heifer lives. I’m a little stunned by the graphic and in this case, dramatic life of our livestock. (I know that’s silly, but buying food at the store is a completely different experience, lol) My hats off to you and the many others that “shepherd” these special creatures.

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    1. Thank you! it is at times like these one wonders if it’s all worth it, but others have far more difficult jobs (think doctors and nurses) and yet they persevere because of their love for people and passion to push through. It’s hard to imagine, though, that over 90% of the population was engaged in agriculture at the turn of the 20th century. My story then would hardly raise an eyebrow.

      In regards to the heifer, she seems to gain a bit each day! Not out of the woods to be sure and today’s 3F windchill is a challenge, but she can get out of the wind, walk anywhere she wants for drink and graze.

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