Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hard Lesson

This lesson was a tough one.  The incident occurred almost 2 weeks ago and I have mulled how to present the facts in a way that would not be offensive.  The hard reality is that life and death are part of life and death.  Guess that sounds a little awkward but I hope readers understand.

As my spouse travels often, checking, feeding, and just general care of the cows falls to me.  If you've read any of my previous posts, you know I am a complete novice at cattle operations.  I have also started a full time job, so these duties have to occur either before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., which means a lot happens in the dark or during the hour for lunch.  If I want to get a good count of cows and calves (just a reminder - the cows are ALL black and many of the calves are black baldy or solid black calves), I often go out during my lunch hour.  If I wait until after 5, it still gets dark really quickly and makes it hard to get a good count.

My spouse was traveling all week and was not due back home until late on Saturday, January 19th.  On Thursday, January 17th, I drove out at lunch to check on the cows and try to get a good count.  When I drove up, there were several cows around both areas where we have been feeding hay.  Often, calves and even some of the cows will be laying down in the hay, which was the case on this day.  I really didn't think much of finding a cow laying in the hay, but soon realized there was a problem.  The cow did not get up when I walked up as would normally be the case.  The cows are not necessarily wild, but they also do not like us walking up to them, especially if there are calves around.

This cow - # 78 had delivered her calf, but the calf didn't survive.  I really don't know if I could have made a difference had I been there, but it was still sad.  But there was more ...

The calf was pretty big and apparently if the cow is too fat, delivery can be a problem.  This was the case that day.  #78 could not get up after delivery and had a prolapsed uterus after the delivery.  I honestly thought she was dead when I walked up.  I will not go into details or post pictures, but those that have been around livestock for very long do not need additional explanation.  I wasn't sure if we had some kind of animal attack on the cow, or if aliens had invaded or some form of animal sacrifice!  However, she moved her head, so I knew she was still alive!  Yeah!  Now what do I do for her?  I did not have a clue, if there was anything that could be done, by me or anyone else.  I tried to reach my spouse but he was in the air and completely unavailable by phone at the time.  I called our banker friend, who also has cows to see if he could give me some advice on what to do.  He also was unavailable at the moment.  I called the man we had purchased the land from as his home was just down the road from our place.  He was about 10 minutes out and volunteered to stop by to see if he could help me figure out what needed to be done.

Just a funny side note as the story is not funny at all - remember I said that I came out on my lunch hour.  So I am dressed in my "work clothes" but I do have my rubber boots - cute ones - black with pink and purple horses on them!  Fortunately, my son had left us 2 pair of coveralls he had from an internship he did with Halliburton a couple of years ago.  Once I realized it was going to take more than just driving the tractor, I pulled a pair of coveralls over my dress clothes - so the picture would be worth $10,000 dollars if I just had one!  I am in these bright red coveralls with reflective strips and my black rubber boots with pink and purple horses out in the pasture.  I'm trying to start a new fashion trend.  At least if something happened, someone could see me from the road! 

The man from whom we purchased the land did stop and tried to help me get the cow up so we could get it penned for the vet.  (Our banker friend called in the meantime, gave me the name of a vet to call, and diagnosed what had happened!).  He tried but simply could not help, so he called a friend who lived close.  They were able to help her get to her feet, but could not get her penned.  The vet would not come out unless we had get her penned.  We talked, I talked to my spouse, and we agreed to let her settle down and try to get her penned later that afternoon.

Realize that I only have 1 hour for lunch - this was about 1 1/2 hours in.  I had already called to let them know what was happening and that I would let them know how things progressed.  I had to take care of the calf - got that handled.  As I was talking to my spouse on the phone, I walked back to check the cow.  She had gone to the very back of the pen and was finally laying down.  As I got closer, something did not look right.  I walked to within about 1 foot and she did not move her head or even twitch her ears.  I realized that not only had we lost the calf, but we lost the cow as well.  Going into this venture, there is always the potential for loss - thus the statement at the beginning of this post.

That is not the end of the story - on Saturday, I was able to be present when another one of our cows delivered her calf.  All went well, without incident, and the calf continues to thrive today.  I think it was part of the lesson God had for me, that He allowed me to be there to witness this new life.  I was and am very grateful for this opportunity to be a small part of this life.  I am most definitely a "cowgirl wannabe" and maybe someday, I might just make it!

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