Saturday, May 6, 2017
The calf that was born yesterday and wasn't doing so well managed to make it through the night.
When I drove up to the pair this morning I thought he was dead at first, but then he raised his head and seemed to be making an attempt to get up. He only tried for a few seconds though and gave up.
I was glad to see that he was still alive. But I was disappointed, too. I would have been giddy with delight if he'd been able to get up. The head raising followed immediately by giving up and just laying there on his side foreshadows what is likely to happen.
More to the point, it foreshadows what I'll probably have to do.
I mixed up a half-gallon of milk replacer and gave him a quart or so via a stomach tube. I tried to get him up but I wasn't successful.
He actually seems to have some weak control of his front legs, but no control whatever of his back legs.
If you've ever seen a cow or calf get up, you probably noticed that the back end comes up first, then the front. When they lay down it's the opposite. Front end goes down, followed by the back end.
So if he can't get his back end up, he's probably not going to get up at all.
He was conscious and alert this morning. When I approached he heard me first, then moved his head to look at me. The fact that he was alive and conscious and alert is due in part to the milk I gave him yesterday. Without that energy he would probably have died in the night.
But the fact that he can't get up points to a profound brain injury.
I could be wrong. Perhaps he just needs time. I'll keep feeding him, and each time I feed him I'll reassess his progress.
But if he doesn't get up today or tomorrow I'm faced with the need to make a decision about putting him down. If he doesn't get up and about he'll develop pressure sores and pneumonia and die of illness and infection. If he doesn't become predated first.
Most of this ranching stuff is a great joy. Even when the weather is awful and the work is too hard. But sometimes you have to make these life and death decisions. And one of the more awful things to do is to shoot a cow or calf to end or prevent suffering when the prognosis is hopeless.
But it's what you have to do sometimes. It's the heaviest part of the responsibility that comes with owning livestock.