Sanders: A calf and a hair dryer
Several years ago we sold our cows to our older son. During calving we are available to him as back-up help, especially during the week when his wife is at work and their kids are in school.
We’ve had a foot of snow and cold temperatures but that doesn’t stop calving. When a baby calf is born without difficulties the mother cow licks it dry and encourages it to get up and suckle. If all of this happens the calves will usually be fine, even if it’s cold. Where it is possible cattlemen put up windbreaks, such as a wood or steel fence, or a stacked pile of old trees limbs — anything to stop the wind from howling through. When the sun is shining it is downright warm next to a windbreak.
Although our son has a great set-up for warming calves sometimes they need human interaction like a calf did this week. I was up and at ’em when I got the call that a calf needed warming. Here is how I prepared and what we did.
I got an old blanket on which to lay the calf, old towels and a hand-held hair dryer set out. When my husband brought the calf, its coat was still wet and its internal temperature lowered because it was chilled. I took the towels and rubbed, rubbed, rubbed to speed up the circulation. The hair dryer was used to warm and to dry. Rubbing and drying continued until the calf was no longer wet. During this time the calf did a lot of shivering, trying to warm itself up. Once he was improving I got him to sit up, “like a calf,” that is, lying perched more or less on his front and back legs with his head up. At first I had to prop him with towels.
Once he stopped shivering and was sitting up like he should, I stuck my hand in his mouth for two reasons: The first was to check if his mouth was warm as that suggests his internal temperature was also warming. The second reason is to see if he was using his sucking instinct.
When the calf was warm, according to his mouth temperature, he was given, an oral dose of NurseMate ASAP, which stimulated his appetite; it also contains protein and vitamins to give the calf a boost. Just before returning him to the cow, we gave him a cup of warm milk with a calf bottle. This lets us observe his ability to suck and gave him a taste of what was to come. He was transported back to the cow and they were put inside a shed in a small pen. That gave the calf the best chance at getting a meal of colostrum or first milk and getting the cow and calf back together.
My effort was successful; the calf and cow are happy together. It is nice to know I haven’t lost my touch with cold baby calves. ❖