We vote cow No. 052 as "Mother of the Year!"
On Feb. 17, a very cold 25-degree day, I went out to the barn to get my horse to go for a “cold ride!” Dennis had just gone to an eye appointment and said that the cow in the corral was going to calve. I looked over there and saw that she was getting ready. I saddled my horse and took another peek and by then she already had a calf. It was a nice bull calf. She was really licking it and the calf soon got up on its wobbly legs. It made an attempt to nurse, but didn’t seem to know what to do, then he laid down. I saw that the cow had not cleaned yet, and there was a “bubble” indicating that she was going to have twins. I called Dennis and asked him what he thought. He confirmed that it sounded like she was going to have twins, but not to worry if she didn’t have the second one for a half hour or so.
I went to the house to get something and by the time I got to the cow, she had just “spit” out the second bull calf. He was more aggressive and soon was up on his feet and getting some warm milk very quickly. Even having to walk on his ankles as his tendons were tight, he was doing a better job at getting a start in the world than the first one. I looked over and “Lucky,” as we came to call him, was lying down and I don’t believe he had sucked yet. I just assumed that he was going to be all right.
A couple days passed and the temperature was still very cold. We checked on the “package of three” and the “crippled” twin was still getting his milk quite regularly, but it didn’t appear that Lucky had sucked at all since birth.
So, we went to the neighboring dairy and bought a couple gallons of colostrum. We dug out an old bottle and nipple and warmed him up some milk. We took it to him and after a little struggle he gulped down the milk, but not without coughing and having to rest between gulps. He apparently hadn’t known how to nurse and had gotten a really bad cold, if not pneumonia. So, we took milk to him a couple more times, then decided we had better take him home and put him in “ICU” in the barn with a heat bulb.
He didn’t have a lot of strength and would just drink a little milk as we believe that he really did have pneumonia. His breathing was very labored and we were very concerned for him. By this time Dennis put him on penicillin for the suspected pneumonia. We got him some electrolytes too and put him on that for a couple of feedings. But, he really didn’t have the scours. I consulted with Bill at Mountain Vet and he thought we should stay with the antibiotics and put him back on milk for the much needed nutrition (since he didn’t have the scours). He said if he didn’t get better after five days on the antibiotics, we should switch to some other antibiotic. At this time he was drinking only about a quart at a time and not drinking really well because of all the congestion and phlegm.
On the fifth day I took him out in the sunshine (it was only about 35 degrees) and he just stood there soaking it up. I turned the two dogs out of their pen and the one, our Chessy Spud, started licking him all over on the mouth and face. It seemed that at that moment his fever must have broke and he did a complete turnaround. At the next feeding he actually drank the entire bottle (2 quarts) and with a lot of aggression. He actually drank like a calf should.
So, we figured he was clear of the pneumonia and strong enough to go back to his mom, if she would take him. We took him there and he still didn’t act like he knew what to do with his mom, but she definitely claimed him and was glad to see him! This was amazing! But, he just didn’t know how to get the milk and where! We thought that he got too used to us feeding him, plus we were suspecting that he didn’t know how to nurse. So, for about three feedings, we took the milk to him and he would drink, but we left him with his mom and brother.
When he came to us and drank the milk, his mom would get really concerned. She would come over to me and lick the bottle and she was sort of telling me to stop doing that. She was very confused. So, we just decided that he was never going to work out with our cow-calf program and we would have to keep feeding him until Wednesday and then take him to the sale barn. But, low and behold, I had just finished feeding him the bottle one more time and decided to shove him to his target on his mom one more time, and he miraculously grabbed a hold of the target and wouldn’t let go! So, we watched him the next day and he was doing just fine! All of a sudden instinct took a hold and he became our “lucky” calf.
We don’t know if it was the canine intervention, Louie Pasteur (penicillin) intervention, or divine intervention that made him a survivor, but it was a good ending!! If Cow No. 052 wasn’t the great mother she is, he would have been at the sale barn!
The North Park Stockgrowers Association and Western Landowners Alliance hosted a meeting in Walden, Colo., on June 20 for northern Colorado ranchers focused on reducing conflict between working lands and wildlife as naturally migrating wolves…
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