Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We got a live one.

It has been quite a morning (say I at 3:30 in the afternoon). 59R started laboring last night. I found her about 5:30 and she was circling, getting up and down, a normal labor process. No water bag, no feet, we figured it was just early labor. Except for this niggling worry in the pit of my stomach that we needed to get her in the barn. Dad wanted to go riding again, so we saddled horses, drank a few beers, and toured the farm, since bow season restricts our access to the nearby state land. We got a late start and I wanted to get back in time to check on 59R, who, if you will recall, had been as big as a barn and, I thought, popping with twins. The Big Red Bull hasn’t thrown large calves, 70-90 lbs, which is about average for Simmentals. Twins are a whole different ballgame, even worse with sheep than cattle. Eight legs and two heads and if they want out simultaneously… hahahaha! Well, you got a mess.

We got back to the pasture where the cattle calve out just as the sun was going down. And there lay 59R. No feet. No waterbag. No progress. Can I buy a fuckin’ A please? So Dad got the barn ready while I tried (keyword: tried) to get the cows in. Sonny kept popping up on his hind legs. Zip worked good. For a few seconds the horse and dog actually pushed cattle together. I got about half the herd in when Sonny flipped, spazzed out so I couldn’t get the rest of the cows in, including 59R. So back they come at a run, black cattle, in the dark, booking it to the back of the forty acre pasture.

Needless to say, I was not a happy happy Axie.

Dad took Rio, his horse, out to try and push just 59R in slow, but to no avail. He saw a waterbag and suggested we just leave her alone. We both agreed that any more attempts to get her in would just damage the birth process more. I went home with a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that a dead cow would be waiting for me come morning.

Dad went down to the farm before I did. We counted 17 cows. We were missing 59R. I walked back and we found her bedded down in a grassy swath near the woods. Zip and I pushed the cows up, we got her sorted off and in the barn, and went off to work (late) while I put in calls to the vet. The vet who came out knew my grandpa (not that that has any bearing on this story) and did a great job with the cow. We got a lariat around her neck and tied her off before haltering her up and going in to see where the calving malfunction was. 1) It was a fucking big calf. 2) It’s head had snagged on her pelvis. After a cow labors for that long, she begins to lose her dilation. 59R is not a large cow by any stretch of the imagination. It was going to be a hard pull, fast and nasty.

I held the cow’s head down (fat lot of good I do; her head weighs more than me) while the vet assjacked the calf out. And out. And out. The calf just kept coming. So did some of her blood and fatty tissue. She tore inside. But the sweetest sound in the world was the inhale that calf took. I didn’t believe it at first, thought I might have dreamed it. But no. The calf wobbled his head up and blinked, wondering why this strange creature extracted him from the safety of the liquid world he’d inhabited for the past months.

The cow lay on her side, panting, and we moved quickly to unhook the assjack and start working the calf. He had a lot of fluid on his lungs, but his birth cord was still intact, and that was the only reason he had survived. Getting stuck on his momma’s pelvis, oddly enough, also saved his life. Sometimes calves whose heads are in the birth canal too long get swollen heads and the pressure on their brain from all the fluid makes them slow to get up and get going. This one’s head looked just fine.

A few antibiotics later we waved goodbye to the good doctor and Zip and I loaded up in the car for a run to the local farm supply store for a bottle (which we all swear we have but cannot find for anything), colostrum supplement, and electrolytes. I had a feeling ol’ Jr there wasn’t going to get up and nurse without some juices in his stomach. He nursed within about three minutes and sucked the bottle dry. He’d stood up once on his own, but trauma births require a little extra and big calves even more so. I tried to get him to stand to nurse, but we’re within about ten pounds of one another. His tail head comes up past my belt buckle! Probably 110, 115 pounds.

Big Fucking Calf.

So as of noon my little buddy was well on his way to recovering from the trauma of being born. We’ll keep him and Momma in the barn about a week so they have plenty of time to recover. Meanwhile, seven other cows are just biding their time. Oh, and the next thing Bug has to look forward to: the trauma of losing his nuts. :-0 I better go check on my little… scratch that… big buddy.