Calving season by turns is a season of contrasts, of deflating defeat and ecstatic elation. In spite of best efforts, everything goes wrong. Then, in spite of the worst efforts, everything goes amazingly right. In spite of best circumstances, everything goes wrong. In spite of worst circumstances, everything goes right. Sometimes it seems you just can’t win.
Last week was pretty hard on the psyche, as my father-in-law would say. We lost calves daily, in situations that seemed so avoidable but really were just the frustrating way nature works, sometimes with us, sometimes against us. Cold and snow and frigid overnight temperatures were definitely fighting against us.
However, things started turning around over the weekend as temps began to warm, and we were excited Sunday morning to find a cow have not twins but triplets, a pretty rare occurrence. All were alive and full term. One had a birth defect, sadly, and nature took care of it pretty quickly, but the other two were lively little things. We snagged one from the cow to give to a different cow who lost a calf, so that was a win, since cows without calves aren’t kept around, and since most of the time twins can’t be raised by the same cow it was actually two wins.
Then yesterday, a tiny heifer started calving and wasn’t progressing. The calf was malpresented, with its head twisted to the side so it was basically being born upside down, which is not how things are supposed to work. We honestly weren’t overly optimistic – The heifer was tiny, and we had lost a cow and calf last week to a similar malpresentation. After a surprisingly successful pull, the calf was born without injury to the cow, but by all appearances the calf was dead. It’s tongue was horribly engorged, it wasn’t breathing, and its eyes had a deathly glassy look to them, with very little eye reflex. Efforts seemed fruitless, but after twenty or thirty minutes of viciously rubbing and drying the calf, encouraging airflow in the lungs, poking its nose, and eventually moving it roughly around (i.e. kicking it) to mimic mama’s rough licking and prodding, the calf was sitting up right, sneezing and shaking his ears. That’s a win. He wasn’t out of the woods, but what a neat save.
This morning, Brad woke me up to tell me the calf was standing. It took a little prodding, but the calf did it! That’s another win. Throughout the day, he’s been pretty spunky, is up and down and walking and appears to be nursing. Wins all around. He has some sort of umbilical defect which we’ll keep an eye on, so again not out of the woods, but again, what a neat save!
When you’re contending with cows and nature, you’re bound to lose a few rounds in spite of everything, and then win a few rounds, also in spite of everything.
This little guy makes it hard to stop smiling.