Monday, March 13, 2017

Hard Deck

Today has been very busy. Very very busy. It was a little bit frosty this morning, with a freezing fog, which made a lot of pretty.


Okay. Hard Deck.

If you ever watched that cheesy old navy airplane movie about the short, self-absorbed pilot with the little wee-wee, you might remember some mention of the hard deck.

What did they call that flick? Bottom Banana? Something like that.

Anyway, little wee-wee busts the hard deck.

And gets in twouble.

Sorry 'bout that. I know how nauseating those film clips are. But I put you through that to help make a point.

In the world of military aviation "hard deck" is a risk management scheme designed to keep people from hitting the ground in their expensive airplanes. Everybody understands that it represents a cushion between a reasonably safe hasslin' altitude and the actual real Hard Deck, which is the ground. There's a huge difference between busting the risk management hard deck and the real Hard Deck.

Here in the twenty-first century we have a lot of cushion betwixt ourselves and various forms of Hard Deck. So much so that a lot of folks don't really understand that reality has hard edges. It's worth thinking about.

I've written about energy and metabolism in cattle and newborn calves before. It works the same in people and in all living organisms. When the energy tank runs dry -- when there's not enough energy left in the living system to keep it going -- the organism dies. It's too late to wolf down a zagnut or take in some other form of food for a "burst of quick energy." Because it takes energy to run the gut.

So there's a Hard Deck when it comes to energy.

Nip, the little calf that got chilled yesterday, very nearly hit the energy Hard Deck. It shouldn't have happened. Healthy cow, normal birth, air temperature was in the 40's. He should have got up and nursed and got on with being a normal baby calf, just like the three others that were born yesterday did.

But he didn't. What should have happened doesn't matter a bit, only what did happen. Or didn't happen.

The major thing that didn't happen was he didn't get any milk in his belly. Within about four hours of birth his energy reserves were very nearly expended. He became hypothermic, with his core temperature falling to about 88 degrees by the time I found him in extremis. His temperature should have been around 99-101 or so. He couldn't hold his own head up, let alone get up and try to nurse or even take a bottle. Another hour or so an he would have hit the Hard Deck and he would have died.

I got warm colostrum into him with a stomach tube and parked him on the passenger seat of my pickup with the heater turned all the way up and the blower on max chat. With the pickup providing a 100 degree environment, he didn't have to expend energy to make body heat, so he was able to use the slim energy reserve he had remaining to digest the colostrum. Within a couple of hours his temp came up to normal and he was headed in the right direction.

I kept him in a warming box overnight and he was doing pretty well this morning. He was still too weak to stand, but he had enough juice to bawl for food.

Today I've tubed him three times and he's getting stronger by the hour. He's not out of the woods yet, but I think he'll get there.

I got his mom in and milked her out, giving Nip part of her rich colostrum and freezing the rest. This evening Mama is in the barn eating hay and Nip is in the warming box digesting milk and gaining strength. If all goes well we'll get him reintroduced to Mama in the morning. Once he figures out how to nurse on his own, we'll turn the pair back out with the rest of the herd.

Tomorrow I'll try to add a bit of detail and some video of milking Mama. Just ran out of time today and I'd like to get this published before it's tomorrow!



  2. Touch and go for the little feller wasn't it? Folks tend to forget that nature can be most unforgiving, even when you do everything right.

    Let's hope (and pray if you're of a mind to) that little Nip recovers and gets to go hang out with Mama real soon.

    1. He had a close one. You never know but it's looking good at the moment.

  3. Nice post. I cannot believe that I missed another. However it is a bit busy around here, what with packing up to move from our house to an apartment.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks for stopping by Paul. They're here until algore shuts off the interwebs. Important stuff has to come first!