Monday, January 02, 2012

Saving Annie



New Year's morning brought horrendously wicked winds.
Overnight flurries and sprinkles had added a layer of treacherous ice to all 'flat spots' around our yard...especially the driveway.
We looked out the North window and saw Annie, one of our Dexter cows starting labor.

How could she have picked a worse time?
The winds were howling, the temps were cold [no, don't ask, I never had time to look at the outdoor thermometer].
Who knows what the wind chill was? Cold.

Damned Cold.

We never had time for anything but a quick cup of coffee.
We'd thought Anne was still a few days off for 'freshening' but Mother Nature works in very strange ways.
...and usually not to everyone else's advantage.

The Master Plan had been to move her before she calved...or began to calf.

Now here she was in bearing the brunt of the wind, shivering and to my eyes...she was weak.

How long had she been in labor?
I wanted to kick myself for not being out there checking when I came home from work.
If I'd been a 'good' cattle person, I would have.

Well no excuses.
We had to deal with what we had in the present and now.

Letting her birth naturally was what we wanted to do. Hubby pulled the skid steer up close to where she was laying to block as much of the wind as we could.
I grabbed an old 'emergency' blanket out of my car and we draped that over her to keep her warmer.


Still she was shaking.

We waited. She had weak contractions.
Try to move her now?
It didn't seem to be a good idea.
Let mother nature take its course?
The calf was in the proper position and it was alive.

However, her contractions would cease, she would shake and then have a weak one where nothing productive happened.

We decided that Annie was getting weaker, from the cold, from the stress...well we weren't exactly sure.
We decided to help her with deliver and it was a good thing too. The bull calf was huge and she probably would not have delivered in her weakened condition.

[She was bred before we got her. The seller had allowed the Bull to run with the older and the young stock...Annie should not have been breed until at least 'this' coming season. I do lay blame on the person who sold her to us for poor herd management.]

My husband pulled the calf and it took all of his might to do so. He lay on the cold ground and pulled with Annie's contractions which did get stronger as the calf's head appeared. Then she appeared to give up.
At this point we were hopeful that Annie would attempt to take care of her calf.
She made a weak attempt at licking him off, but then quit.
She was shaking violently.

We took the calf and put him under a heat lamp in a stall we'd prepared.
Then it was time to move Annie.
Except she couldn't or wouldn't get up.
We could leave her... but ... she needed to get warm and out of the cold. She needed her strength back.

With a bit of creative wrestling [Annie, at this point was not helping at all], we got Annie into the skid steer bucket and drove her to the shed.
With much tugging and pulling we finally got her in the stall with her calf.
We coaxed endlessly, but Annie did not get up.
Her calf cried weakly, she cooed, but still did not have the strength to get up.

Now for a new experience.
I pushed and prodded and gently rolled Annie to her side, I braced her hind leg against my knee [I was kneeling next to her]...and grasped her teats.
I milked her into a plastic 2 ounce container and then syringed that warm colostrum into the calf's mouth.

He was weak. I was determined.
Back and forth I went with Annie.
First rolling her on one side then the other.

I placed warm water in front of her and some fresh hay. She drank and began to eat.

After 3 hours I went in the house rather discouraged. The calf was not sucking, most of the milk leaked onto my hands.

But Annie had finished the water and the handful of hay I'd given her.
I went to get more warm water and a fork full of hay.

To my surprise, she stood up when I re-entered the shed, Annie was up.
However she was ignoring her calf.

I milked her again with only a slight protest...she raised one back leg then quickly put it down and simply turned her head to watch me.

I again attempted to feed the calf.
It had been hours now since his delivery and he was unable to stand and he was not drinking.

He would not make it.
Annie however was clear eyed albeit a bit wobbly.
Had we not helped her deliver, she would have certainly died.
Had we not moved her out of the weather, she would have certainly died also.

We were able to save Annie who was in reality to young to have been bred 9 months ago. But we lost the calf.

I've learned that farming and raising animals has a constant up and down. You feel euphoric when you have success. You feel miserable when there is a failure.
At least Annie will live and that is some small measure of success.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are a good herdswoman...you did everything you could...everything that was called for, and I am sad to hear she lost her calf, but the next one, if there is a next , will be under your supervision and she will be older and stronger and the bull will be one known for passing on smaller birth weight calves. (HOw's THAT for a long sentence!?)

I know from all I have experienced and read that this is a pretty normal occurrence among cattlemen, and those that deserve to wear the title earn it over and over by actions such as yours and your husband's. Happy New Year, and give Annie a pet from her fans! Eleanor

gtyyup said...

Aw Val...you fought valiantly for Annie and her calf. I guess it surprised me that you lost the calf...it must have been weak from the long labor?

Yes, at least you have Annie and her next calf will be from the right bull.

I do wish you and yours a very good New Year~

Val said...

gtyyup, you have more experience I know with cattle! I only worked in a dairy barn for a year.

I think she had been in labor for a long time and that when I got home at 1am, I should have checked on her. It was icy, I was tired.
The wind chill factor I guess was well below -10. All that aside, I always look back and think...*what could I have done better? What will I learn for the future?*

Eleanor~ yes, we will be breeding her at the correct age, thank goodness...and she'll calf in the spring not WINTER!