Saturday, May 12, 2012

Frustrations, Heartaches and Small Triumphs

I got one of those calls early this afternoon.  You know the kind..."I'm having big trouble and I need help, can you come?"...One of our oldest and best mom-cows, Buff, was having trouble calving over at my friend's farm.  We got this particular cow some years ago when she was already 5-6 years old.  She produces beautiful babies and is very much the herd matriarch.  She is the self-designated babysitter and protector for all the calves every year.  She has always calved with no trouble and no fuss.  Until today.  Buff's one major flaw is that she cannot be handled.  She has lived her whole life with one rule that says, "You don't mess with me, I won't mess with you.  If you do mess with me, I will kill you."  Buff is 1800 pounds of Hereford/Charolais who makes her own rules.  Buff is formidable...

WARNING: this next part does get a bit graphic, there is no help for it.  There are no more pictures, but this does get a bit tough.  Please feel free to bailout now. 

While it was clear that she had been trying to have this calf for a while and it was obvious that the calf was already lost, Buff was not in a great deal of distress.  It may sound mean, but it would have been easier if she had been.  Buff was on her feet, completely mobile and perfectly willing to defend herself from would-be helpers in spite of the two small feet protruding several inches from her backside .  Our only option was to try to sedate her so we could pull the calf.   We were able to get some Rompum (a sedative) from a nearby horse farm, the challenge was getting it into her. 

One of the most profoundly frustrating aspects of this whole endeavor was that we could not get one single vet to come out and help.  I maintain client relationships with 3 separate vet clinics just so they will come out when I need them.  Taking this animal to Cornell was not an option.  I am not sure how many vets we talked to today, but NONE of them would come out.  This is a problem that has been getting steadily worse in this area for some time.  The reasons were..."you aren't an established client, we don't work on cows, it's too far away, it's Friday afternoon, the business day is nearly over"  Business day, can you believe it, BUSINESS day!!?....Haven't any of these people read James Harriott?  Why the hell did they become large animal vets if they won't treat large animals?  Yes, cows can be hard to deal with.  Yes, farms are scattered across a wide area and require travel time to reach them.  Yes, animals have problems at inconvenient times when everybody would rather be doing something else.   YES, dealing with all of this is part of the job!!!

Sorry, I will quit ranting now.  I just couldn't quite help myself.

Anyway, late this afternoon, Buff finally laid down and we were able to come up behind her and get a shot of rompum into her.  Fifteen minutes later we finally got our hands on those protruding legs.  The calf was backwards, one of the worst possible Mal-presentations.  The calves almost never survive this as they suffocate almost as soon as the birth begins.  Unless someone is on hand to perform an immediate C-section, the calf cannot survive.  We were well beyond that and our only concern was trying to save Buff.  That calf was more stuck then anything I have ever seen.  There were three strong people there pulling for all we were worth and we couldn't budge that calf. We hated doing it, but finally had to resort to a come-along.  It still took all our strength AND the come-along, but eventually, we got that calf out.  

We gave Buff a massive dose of antibiotics and got her propped up on some hay bales.  I suggested that we try to get a calf from the dairy farm down the road so that when Buff finally woke up she would find a new calf beside her rather than a lonely, empty barn....I think it worked, I got an update at about 11:00, Buff was on her feet, still groggy, but showing signs of interest in the calf.  We were worried that she might have nerve damage, that she might never get up, but Buff is one tough cow.  She is on her feet and so far doing well.  We lost a calf today, but I think we saved a cow.  Sometimes that is as good as it gets.

Days like this are why I worry so much about Emma.  Because it is possible to do everything right and still have things go wrong.  I know I worry too much, but sometimes I'm right and that scares me more than anything 


  1. This was just what you DIDN"T need right now!

  2. Such a hard situation with her being so wild and then no vet. I didn't want to keep reading, but did anyway. Now I can see why you are worried about Emma. Pray hard.

  3. I know the worries you are going thru. I worry too. Even when there is no need to worry...But like you said, "doing everything right" some times is not enough. I worry about Emma too, and keep you and her in my prayers for a worry free, happy and safe delivery and a healthy baby.

  4. Keeping you and Emma in my prayers for a worry free, happy and safe delivery!

  5. Sad story, but part of life... most sorry to hear about the non-present vets. Here's a people story for you... years ago my step-mom's dad (100 years old and living at home with her and my dad) was extremely ill. My step-mom called ever doctor in town and could find not one with compassion on an old man and make a house call... 911 eventually had to be called... what ever happened to house calls??

  6. It's sad to heard about calf,but the story about vets...makes me crazy! I thought this, only happens here.