Raising a Calf….

So this isn’t the first time we have had to save a calf nor will it be the last, but this has been the most difficult and heart wrenching journey so far. Farming is hard, it’s not all whips cracking and dogs barking, it’s bloody tough and it makes you tough inside. I don’t want to be tough inside, I don’t want to look at animals as just dollars and cents, I don’t want to be ripping calves off their mothers when they are still babies so their mothers can have another calf. The whole industry is barbaric which seems hypocrytical since I am a meat eater, but as boots on the ground I don’t like it one little bit. I love the cows and watching the babies grow, but the rest of it, sucks the big one!

We found this little guy in the paddock with his mother, he was laying down and as we approached he didn’t try to get up and get away, he just sat there. We soon realised that he was paralyzed and we went to work to try and find the tick that would be the reason why. We didn’t only find one but several. This was the second calf in a week that was paralyzed from a tick. The first one recovered very well but this little guy was to be a different story. When calves get sick the first thing we do is get some electrolytes into them, this is critical to keeping up their fluids to avoid dehydration. We usually leave them in the paddock with their mothers as that is the best place for them, but with heavy rain forecast for many days ahead we had no choice but to bring this one home and put him in the shed on a bed of hay out of the rain. Being paralyzed in the rain would have surely been this calf’s death, pneumonia sets in quickly and a calf will be dead in a short period of time and it’s not a nice death.

We continued to feed him electrolytes, but he wasn’t doing so well. We started him on milk powder which helped him regain his strength slowly but he still couldn’t get up. As the strength returned to his legs we were met with the challenge of getting him up on concrete floors that were slippery from him peeing on them and this was just not working. After days of him struggling I decided to get him in to our house yard and on to some grass where he would be able to grip better as he went to stand. I managed to get this heavy little bugger on to a tarp and I dragged him from the shed to our front yard, literally feeling like I was going to have a heart attack from dragging this heavy assed calf in 36 degree heat into our yard and on to the front lawn. He was very stressed and panting heavily, a combination of the heat and stress so I got him settled under a tree in the cool for a while. My husband called the vet and they gave us some anti inflammatory’s for him and some anti biotics which helped him over the next couple of days. We pulled his pen down out of the shed and re-erected it in the front yard on the grass once my husband got home from work. This worked a treat and in a matter of no time he was up and walking around. We weren’t out of the woods though.

Days after we got him up and about, getting his strength and health back I noticed he wasn’t excited to see me with his bottle. He just lay in his pen and didn’t come out. Every morning I would feed him, open the pen and let him out so he could walk around and forage as cows do. This day he wasn’t interested and it was clear to me he wasn’t doing so great. We called the vet in and she discovered he had an infection in the joints in his back legs, much the same as septic arthritis in humans. She didn’t give him a great prognosis but she said while he looks as good as he does don’t give up on him just yet. She said he was the best bottle fed calf she had seen and that we had done an incredible job with him. She left some antibiotics and pain killers for us to give him and to just see how he goes. I was so sad, all our efforts were for nothing, he was in pain and we were prolonging it.

I continued to feed him, get him out and walk around with him so he could get some sun on him but as soon as I left he would go back to bed in his pen. Today is day 3 after the vet has been and he is due for his next shot of antibiotics and he has had a drastic turn around. He was up and bellowing out to me to come feed him. I let him out and he started butting me with his head, as they do, to remind me he is hungry. After I fed him he went out to the yard grazing and chasing the dog around. We have weaners in the paddock next to our house who come down every day to chat with him, 3 days he wasn’t even interested in them but today, he ran over to see them skipping and jumping around like calves do. I was so happy to see him feeling good again.

I guess we aren’t out of the woods yet because there will come a time when the owners of this place will not spend any more money on him, we have been buying his meds because I feel like every living creature deserves a shot at life especially when it will end prematurely anyway, but we can’t sustain that long term. My hope was to get him well enough and big enough to rejoin the herd and be a cow, but who knows, I’ll keep you updated!

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