July 29th, 2019 — The Running of the Bulls

The Running of the Bulls

Calving continues, Tom had his knee replaced a week ago (July 15th) so he’s out of the picture for a few weeks yet and that leaves the cows, the calves and the entire birthing process to me.  Lucky me.

When I went out Sunday morning to do chores Charlotte was laying off by herself.  Went to check and she had a pretty, all red calf. She hadn’t cleaned yet (passed the afterbirth) so I left them alone, I didn’t want her to stop contractions before all of the afterbirth had passed.  Any retained afterbirth is a gateway to infection and a dead cow/calf.

At the next check Charlotte was up and had cleaned.  Great! But then she staggered away, almost falling when she tried to turn.  Not Great! First thing that I think of is milk fever. Milk Fever happens when cows who milk heavily suffer a loss of calcium.  Charlotte regularly nurses 2 calves and a third will be standing in line for a turn, so I think that qualifies her. Called the on-call vet (this is Sunday) and text Kyle.

Usually when you find a cow with milk fever they’re down and unable to rise, I wasn’t waiting for that to happen.  Milk Fever is quickly fatal but just as easily curable with an IV of calcium.  

Kyle and Josh arrive and we haul 4 of the 80 pound corral panels out to the field and start building a pen around the calf.  Charlotte staggers her way out before the 4th side is in place. Then gives us the evil eye. Graduates to fake charging me while calling her calf.  Calf gets up and starts following directions to exit pen, exit pen quickly, exit pen quickly while I kill all humans.

Then things get interesting.  She got tired of threatening to kill me and escalated to charging Josh and got him with her head in his other end.  Knocked the phone off him and the jury is still out on whether or not she left a mark. I’m not checking.

The vet arrived about that time and we all, Charlotte and calf included walked up to the gate.  The vet, bless her was game to try and pen Charlotte up but after watching her move about we decided that her staggers had improved considerable, that wouldn’t have happened with milk fever and that her calf looked bigger than she would be comfortable birthing.  His front legs knuckled over at the fetlocks (ankles) a sign of limited womb room. Diagnosis: temporary nerve damage caused by too big calf in too small birth canal.

Treatment plan:  I had given her a bucket of minerals so she could have some calcium while we waited for the vet.  The vet left us an IV of calcium I could inject under the skin with an IV set-up to hold her over if it did turn out to be milk fever until she could arrive with IV calcium.  If Charlotte had gone down I know how to safely restrain her while she gets the calcium.

A wary look from Charlotte

Long term diagnosis:  Charlotte is going to find a new career.  She had this attitude last year when she calved but we gave her the benefit of the doubt because her calf was coming upside down and backwards and had to be pulled by the vet.  We left her and the new baby in the barn and she didn’t have her herd surrounding her to make her feel safe. We blamed that for her aggression. Nope, she’s just way too aggressive when she first calves.  In a few days she’ll settle down and we’ll be able to walk through the herd without a spotter to keep an eye on her while we do other things but for now we’re keeping a healthy distance. The picture I took was using a bit of close up lens, even farther away than it looks, she had me in her sights.

If Charlotte had been horned instead of polled Josh could have told everyone he was at the Running of the Bulls.  He was wearing a day glo T-shirt instead of the traditional white with a red sash but he did have qualifying injuries so maybe that counts.

We finally had a chance to look under the hood and discovered Charlotte has given us a nice, stocky bull calf.  We haven’t named him yet, any suggestions? Candy

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