Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

The Bag Lady had a very busy day today. It started at 5:45 this morning when she rolled out of bed and started the coffee. She had a quick cup, then got dressed and stumbled out to check cows. She thought she would just run out and make sure everything was okay, then go back to the house, have another cup of coffee and a hot shower, and take Uncle to town for his appointments at 9 am.
The best laid plans.....

When she got out to the far end of the pasture, she discovered that one of the cows was indeed calving. So she watched from a distance for awhile, then decided to go back to the house for a minute. While she was back at the house, she grabbed the walkie-talkie (which she had forgotten - must have been still half asleep), and set the other one beside the bed where the Rancher was still snoozing.

She got back to the pasture and had a good look at the cow and realized that the little feet that were sticking out of said cow were pointing their little soles at the sky! Now that may not mean much to most of you city folks, but it spells bad news to ranchers.

Quick lesson in cow parturition: In a normal birth, the first things to appear are the calf's front feet. Then, occasionally, you can see it's tongue laid along it's legs. Then it's nose appears, and the rest of the body follows along. If the front feet appear, the bottom of the feet are pointing at the ground, just as if it could launch itself out of the cow and land on it's feet. If those first little feet that appear are pointing at the sky, it means the calf is backwards.

Now this may not seem like a terrible thing, and, indeed, if someone is there to assist, a calf presenting backwards can be saved. But if there is no-one there to help, the calf almost always dies, because as soon as the umbilical cord is severed, the calf takes a deep breath. If his head still happens to be inside the cow (which it almost invariably will be) when the umbilical cord breaks, the first breath he takes will be amniotic fluid, and he drowns.

Fortunately, the Bag Lady appeared on the scene before this happened, and managed to rouse the Rancher. Together, they got the cow into the barn, got her tied to a post and the Rancher assisted the birth. He had to use a come-along (in case you don't know what that is, it is a pulley/ratchet thingy (yes, that is the technical term!) that is very strong, and can be used to winch things that are heavy) to help pull the calf, but he managed to save her life! Here is a very blurry picture of momma cow inspecting the critter who caused her so much pain:
(click on any of the pictures to enlarge them in all their blurry glory - not that it helps!)

The Bag Lady apologizes for the quality of the pictures - she was in a hurry, and the barn was very dark.
This is a come-along (or, rather, part of one - the Bag Lady really was in a hurry!):

She ran to the house after the calf was born, doused her head in the bathroom sink (she had brushed up against the cattle oiler when they were moving the cow to the barn and had malathion and diesel fuel in her hair!) changed her clothes and managed to get Uncle to his appointment at 8:59 am! (Even though her hair was still wet!)
The rest of the day was filled with making sure Uncle was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be, then grocery shopping and other errands.
The Rancher bought some square bales so it would be easier to feed the cow in the barn (she will be kept in there overnight because the weather is lousy!)

And here is an example of the lousy weather. A thunderstorm blew through late in the afternoon, bringing with it some pea-sized hail:

And there it is storming again right now - hailing again, but will probably turn to snow. Sigh.

The Bag Lady wanted to share a little cuteness with you today, too. This is the calf that was born a couple of days ago, goose-stepping his way over to momma for some milk:


Hilary said...

Oh my goodness.. what a day. You seem to take it all in stride. That calf is adorable, as is the one dancing over to it's mother. All wonderful!

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Bag Lady to the rescue (and the Rancher, too)!!
I'm so glad the calf is okay and its mama, too. I was worried where your story was headed...
You did indeed have quite a day, and as busy as it was, I'm guessing that mama cow thinks she had a more difficult time than you!

Reb said...

Well, a day that starts out saving a baby can't be all that bad! You did get to the rest of the app'ts on time. I'd say you had a stellar day! Would you talk to someone about this cold crappy weather we're having though?

Rupal said...

geeez BL! That's a morning for ya..and all before 9am...impressive!

LOVE the pics and descriptions...thanks for the edumacation!


Scrumpy said...

I hope your husband knows what a jewel you are! Here I've been a little grumpy because hubby isn't helping too much with the new city dog duties and you're out birthing troubled baby cows.

David Cranmer said...

What an interesting (I need a stronger word than that) day and one of the reasons I stop by here is to learn these fascinating details on something that is foreign to me like calving... And great pics!

solarity said...

My suspicion that you are actually Wonder Woman is confirmed. Deliver a breech calf and STILL get to the appointment on time!
(The calf looks pretty tired, and he didn't even do anything.)

Mary Anne in Kentucky

JavaChick said...

Wow. So glad you were there in time to see that help was needed and that the calf was born ok. Quite the start to your day!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Good save on the breech birth! I wasn't quite clear on what one did in such situations, but now I know.

the Bag Lady said...

Hilary - I was so relieved that we managed to save that little calf! It really WAS wonderful.

kcinnova - actually, the Rancher did most of the real work - I just held the rope we had her tied with. She was a kicker, too! And yes, I'm sure it was harder on her than it was on us!

Reb - I'll see what I can do - it's bright and sunny here this morning, which should melt the little hail balls or sleet balls (whatever the hell you would call them!) that are covering the ground!

Rupal - you're welcome! *big smile* I love sharing information about stuff that I knew nothing about when I lived in the city!

SB - I'm not sure the Rancher thinks I'm much of a jewel - he grew up with SuperWoman for a mom - I could never do half of what she had to do!

David - I'm glad you enjoy my ranching tales! Just wish the pictures had been a little clearer! If I hadn't been so busy trying to hang onto that cow, I would have loved to video the whole thing!

Mary Anne in Kentucky - all in a day's work, right? (teehee) I was a little worried we would be late for the appointment, but it all worked out!

JavaChick - I was a wee bit tired last night, for sure. That's what's called hitting the ground running (especially for the Rancher, because he didn't even get a coffee before he was out there, pulling a calf!)

the Bag Lady said...

BG (sorry, we were posting simultaneously) Now you'll know what to do if you ever come across a cow with a backwards calf!

Actually, breech births are slightly different. When a calf presents butt-first is what we call a breech, and is a whole different ballgame... usually ends up in a caesarean section, and much more likely to result in the death of the calf. Unless you can get the cow to a vet, or if you are lucky enough to be able to stick your arm in and turn the calf, the calf will often times die.

Charlotte said...

What an adventure! I'm so glad you saw the calf before it died. It's like james Herriot in real time:)

the Bag Lady said...

Charlotte - I was pretty happy we managed to save that calf, too! She is adorable - I went out this morning to check on her and her mom, and she bounced right up to me and let me rub her back! So cute.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

df Bag Lady,

Congrats on saving the calf!

What a hectic day. Try to get some rest.

Terrie (whi is a big believer in rest)

the Bag Lady said...

dfTerrie - things are much calmer around here today! Almost restful! :)

Levi said...

I am glad you saved the day and the calf.

the Bag Lady said...

POD - well, I'm not sure about the day, but the calf is doing well!! :)

Conny said...

Like Charlotte, I was thinking James Herriot too.

It's a good thing you weren't alone on the ranch. If it were me, I'd be alone on the ranch, failing my arms, and panicking because the calf would die and the cow would be in immense pain.

You know soooo much -- that's a far cry from the city girl you once were, isn't it. I'm in awe today. You really can take on anything. Good for you. AND you remembered to bring out your camera in the midst of it all.


the Bag Lady said...

Conny - full disclosure - I almost forgot to take a picture - was half way to the house when I thought of it, so ran back. Hubby thought I was nuts!
And I am very thankful that he was home, because I don't know if I could have even gotten the cow to the barn by myself. And I know for a fact I couldn't have pulled that calf - it was difficult for HIM, and he's done it lots!
I've done it by myself once, but it was many years ago and I was in much better physical shape. And wasn't nearly as difficult as this one was.

Dawn said...

Thank goodness you did your early morning check. And how you manage to take photos too I just don't know. It's a very worrying situation but you coped beautifully.

And yes, we have similar equipment in NZ!

the Bag Lady said...

Dawn - so glad you got to read this! I knew you, especially, would understand!

Sagan said...

Awww cute. You're saving little critters left right and center! Sounds like quite a lot of excitement.

the Bag Lady said...

Sagan - not, perhaps, as exciting as touring Cambodia..... okay, nowhere near that exciting! :)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Never thought "a quick lesson in cow parturition" could be so fascinating!

Glad things worked out, and I agree with Hilary, it's amazing the way you take all this in stride!

the Bag Lady said...

Thanks, Crabby! I think Uncle was pretty stressed about the situation, but he was on time so it was all good!