March 26, 2015

Calving Heifers

This Spring I drove by a rundown drive-in theatre. The marque read: "Honk of you like calving heifers." This was some rancher's shot at humor because not many people enjoy calving heifers. These are cows who are having their first calf. Sometimes they need help birthing it, other times their motherly instincts don't kick in and they don't know what to do. Some are crazy. This morning at my 6 am check a heifer had calved on her own but wasn't sure of what to do with this wet thing. She didn't clean it up much and it hadn't been up to suck. After getting the kids to school and feeding the other cows I went out to see if there was any progress. Calf still couldn't get up and it had been close to 5 hours. It was time to step in and help them out. The mom wasn't mean or vicious towards me or the calf so I drug it into the corrals, down the ally and in front of the chute. She followed and I was able to get her in the head catch.

The calf needed nourishment to have the strength to stand and nurse so I milked the cow into this calf tuber. The long part goes down it's throat and into the stomach.

Here's a picture of me tubing a calf last week, because it's pretty hard to take a picture of yourself doing this! You have to hold the calf up, slide the long tube down the right side of it's mouth moving slowly allowing it to swallow the tube. This has to be right because if you get it down the wrong tube you will be in the lungs and immediately drown it. Tip the bottle up and let the milk / colostrum flow down. Slowly remove the tubing and that's it.

The best thing to do after that is to put them in a pen alone. Hopefully her motherly instincts will kick in and the calf will have energy to get up and nurse. If not I will put her in the chute and help the calf nurse. If it's still too weak I can milk the cow out again and tube it. You just have to take the time to do it.

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