Oprah’s Calf

We have been trying very hard to save this calf. We thought that maybe since he was drinking from the bottle and even getting up to come to the bottle, he was going to be all right. But in actuality he was still getting weaker. He was born on Sunday May 17. It wasn’t until Tuesday May 19 that Hubby realized that he may not be nursing. We finally did get him to take a bottle of milk supplement. Our calves are supposed to be from low birth weight bulls. We are guessing that most of our calves weigh in about 40-50 pounds at birth. This calf was getting enough supplement for a 100 pound calf. Thursday Mom had him laying out in the sun and he was a little weak. We thought maybe he had just gotten too hot. We should have gotten him to the shed then. But when we tried to get him, he kept just out of handling range so we thought he would be okay. Friday he was still acting interested in the bottle. We had let him and Mom out into a bigger area where the grass was better, but not able to get into the pasture with the other cows and calves. We had plans to get an ear tag on him at some point.

Friday we had an annual Lions Club hamburger feed at Holton for their annual Glory Days festival. It is a craft fair that they have every Memorial weekend. It used to be a two day event on Saturday and Sunday, but got changed to Saturday only. There is still a good crowd and an old car show. On the Friday before, our club always does a hamburger feed. After we were done there we went home to feed the calf and check on a first calf heifer that we thought was due. I fed Oprah’s calf while Hubby went to check on the heifer. He ate pretty heartily and even tried to suck on my shirt. I told him he wasn’t getting any milk from there. 🙂 I watched him after he was done and thought he looked pretty skinny for eating so much. He was also walking kind of different and was shivering in the flanks. He just didn’t look right. I told Hubby, but he hadn’t noticed him doing that. I thought I had seen him shiver when he was in the sun. We have been having a lot of rain this year and that in itself is a big worry when calving.

Saturday morning Hubby had gone out to feed the calf and when he came in he wanted to take him to the vet. The calf had drank the bottle but he wasn’t quite right. Hubby was hooking up the trailer and I walked out to see if I could get Mom and calf headed up to the loading point. By the time I had gotten out there the calf was laying down and was not responsive at all. He was breathing and shivering and warm to the touch. I called Hubby and said he would have to bring the ATV or something. This calf was not going to stand. Hubby brought the tractor that was hooked to a platform which was much easier to use. I had taken my jacket off and wrapped it around the calf. Now Mom is getting worried and tried to get baby up. He just barely fluttered his eyes. Thankfully there was a fence between us and the other cows. Oprah’s moos of concern was beginning to draw attention. I was not wanting the Indians circling the wagon again like last time.

If you have ever tried to pick up 40-50 pounds of dead weight, then I suggest you don’t if you don’t have to. I don’t know who had the heavy end, but I think it was me. Hubby was trying to pick up the front end and I had the back. Oprah was mooing frantically and it was nerve wracking. We got him on the platform and headed back. My black jacket was still on baby so Mom wasn’t sure where he was. She was circling the tractor and bumping it like she was the ATV last time. She is a dedicated mother. You can’t convince me that animals are stupid and don’t care. Sometimes they are more caring than human mothers.

We finally got Oprah loaded only after we carried baby into the trailer. We got her separated into the back while I stayed in the front with the calf. We got a blanket and a plastic tarp (mostly for me to sit on) because the poor thing was really shivering now. I called the vet to tell him we were on the way. It would be a holiday weekend.

They had what they called a calf warmer ready when we got there. It looks like a big dog house and has a place just big enough for the calf’s head to slip through. The top opened up so we could lay him in there. Our vet took baby’s temp and said it was high and that he was dehydrated. I couldn’t figure out how. Hubby had said that he seen him once drinking out of a muddy puddle. Baby calves don’t do that until the are older.

Sunday morning the vet himself called us and said that the calf had an infection; most likely because he didn’t have the critical colostrum needed to give him the boost he needs within that first 24 hours of mom’s milk. Vet started a very good antibiotic. Best on the market right now. He would keep us posted.

This morning the vet called again and said that the infection had spread to the brain. The calf had had a few seizures, but he still had hopes for the medicine to work. It would take 72 hours for a positive result. He needed to keep him through today. We asked if we should just put him down. The vet said yesterday he might have said yes, but today he would have to see. The calf may, or may not be blind or brain damaged if he pulls through.

I am not cut out to be a cattle person. This has been an emotional weekend for me. I can deal with the fact that we, and all cattle ranchers raise cattle for meat and hopefully a profit. We keep a steer to butcher and fill our freezer with a years worth of meat. But I am still an animal lover and when a little baby struggles, like a human baby, it is heartbreaking. Especially when you bring mom back home and turn her out with the others, she is calling and searching for her baby. We will cull her out and send her to market. It will happen again if we don’t. I tried to get Hubby to send her to the butcher and have more hamburger. We don’t really have the freezer space now, but we could have made arrangements with family to store some. And before someone berates me for wanting to butcher her, she has been a good cow for us and raised four good bull calves to sell and she deserves to go to a small town butcher rather than go to some stranger who may or may not take care of her and then send her to a big slaughter house outfit that shoves them through not caring about how they may die.

Well anyway that is where things stand. And by the way, if anyone who has a trailer to move horses and cows from one destination to another, should ride in the back of their trailer to see what they can do to make it more quieter. No wonder horses and cows don’t like to load! I needed some ear plugs. I was actually holding the calf’s ears hoping to help him. Not that I think he was conscious enough to notice.


Stay Safe and God Bless!


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