Saturday, May 20, 2017
As you all know, I'm probably one of the most smartest, most competentest ranchers ever to walk the face of good ol' mama earth.
I know you all know this because I go to great pains in crafting this blog to ensure that the message of my overwhelming brilliance and unparalleled mastery of everything comes first, last, and always.
This morning I was faced with the fact that 80 cows and 80 calves were on the wrong side of a fence. To make them magically appear on the correct side of the fence, all I had to do was open a gate and chivy them through it. I had to do it quickly though, because they were very close to the gate and headed in the right direction. If they found the gate open they'd stroll right on through. If they found the gate closed, they wouldn't care at all. They would, however, keep grazing along, right past the gate, and would soon be headed in the wrong direction. No disaster there, but it would take additional time and effort, and I had other things I should be doing.
To further set the scene, there was a good bit of snow on the ground. And the ground beneath the snow was sodden and saturated from the precipitation of the last few days.
Anyway, I pulled up in my trusty pickup and baled out to open the gate. I left the engine running and slapped the stickshift out of gear as I baled.
As I opened the gate I was astonished to see my pickup driving itself merrily along in the direction I had left it pointing. I stood there dumbfounded as it chugged through a windbreak, right between a pair of junipers.
And then it chugged right through a three-strand barbed wire fence.
And kept going.
About 250 yards away was another fence, this one a bit more substantial. On the other side of the fence was a field of winter wheat.
I finally fought through my gobsmackedness and decided to take action.
"Feets," I yelled, "don't fail me now!"
I fairly flew across the snow covered prairie and reached the pickup before it could negotiate a second fence. Dodged a serious bullet there, for had the pickup ended up in that saturated, soft wheat ground it would have been a nightmare.
I turned around and saw that most of the cows and calves were passing through the opened gate as well as the gap in the now torn-down fence. They really seemed to appreciate my efforts to widen the path for them, particularly in light of the sodden ground and all.
An hour later I'd repaired the fence and closed the gate. The repair is only temporary; I'll have to wait for the ground to dry up a bit to fix it correctly. With the fence fixed I was able to get on with my daily chores, serenely confident in my absolute mastery of, well, everything.
The calf that couldn't get up was still down this morning. It's a puzzling and vexing problem. She's completely bright and alert and seemingly content. She's not sick. She's well nourished and well hydrated, thanks to feeding via the stomach tube. But she can't get up. She seems to have little control of her back legs, and there's no obvious reason why.
Her mom is very attentive, which is good. She's clearly trying to encourage the calf to get up and nurse. And the calf is clearly trying.
Speaking of nursing, the calf hasn't done so for two days, but the cow's udder has, of course, gone on making milk. In addition to being concerned about the well being of her calf, the cow is also a bit uncomfortable at having and udder full of unsuckled milk.
So we've got a calf that can't nurse but needs milk, and a cow that needs to be nursed but can't be suckled. What to do?
I put the cow in the chute and milked her out. She produced a bit more than a gallon, and I probably could have got twice that without half trying. I tubed the calf and gave her a half-gallon and put the rest in the fridge.
Then I rigged up a sling to lift the calf and see if she could stand on her own with just a bit of assistance. She tried really hard but just couldn't get her back legs to work right. She can move them but just seems to lack coordination and strength.
That's not a very encouraging sign. Nevertheless, I'll keep feeding her and slinging her and we'll see if she makes any progress. If she does, that'll be wonderful. But if she doesn't, the prognosis is grim. If she doesn't get up and down and scamper around and do all the normal calf stuff she'll end up with pressure sores and pneumonia, and that'll be the end of her.
I'll keep doing what I can for as long as it makes sense and as long as she doesn't begin to suffer. But the reality of the situation is that if she can't get up and get about she's just not going to survive.
We're very nearly done with calving. Three cows to go, and one of those looked like she was giving serious consideration to having her calf today. I think she changed her mind though.
The downy paintbrush and fringed sagewort are beautiful.