This calving season has been trying. Despite the fact we downsized and had fewer cows to calve out, it's still a marathon and a test of stamina, thanks to luck and the weather.
We've had a number of malpresentations. This includes two backward calves, one calf with head turned back, several with one or both legs turned back, and a number presented sideways or upside down.
We've delivered them all safely, due to diligence and a good crew. Our daughter and son-in-law took part of the night shift. They've been good at checking any cow that seemed to be taking too long in early labor. They discovered the malpresentations and corrected them while there was still a live calf to deliver.
A Big, Long Calf One of the backward calves was very long-legged and tall. He was difficult to deliver because his legs were so twisted and crooked. At first we thought he was malformed due to his mother eating lupine in early pregnancy.
His front and hind legs were extremely crooked and he had trouble standing and nursing the first few days. He needed help for a week, but he's straightening up, and is now out with the herd, running and playing like the other calves. By summer, he may be completely normal. We suspect his problem was merely due to lack of room in the uterus.
Calving is nearly over - only three left and they're all overdue. We still have to check them since the weather hasn't been amenable to calving outdoors.
We've had a few nights below zero. More often, it's been stormy, wet and windy, which will quickly chill a new calf. We're also short of people. Jim left a week ago to help our son and daughter-in-law in Moore, ID. They're having a terrible battle with scours.
Ideal Scours Conditions They moved their cattle last fall to a neighbor's place with better calving facilities. While it allowed them to calve out their cattle together, the unforeseen drawbacks were too many cattle in a small area and lots of sickness.
This winter has been mild with above-average moisture, creating ideal conditions for scours. Cold, dry weather with ground frozen is much better than a wet, sloppy environment.
Mud and the congregation of cattle have created a nightmare. All the calves have been getting sick by two to three weeks of age - about the time maternal antibodies from the colostrum start to wane - and some much younger.
They've been treating calves 24 hours a day. They give fluids, electrolytes and kaopectate by stomach tube every few hours to as many as 30 calves at once, trying hard to save them.
Those they catch early respond to a dose of neomycin sulfate solution. But many need three to four rounds of fluid for 24 to 48 hours. A few have needed IV fluid.
It's been difficult to check them often enough to find all the sick ones early. Jim has been helping them work around the clock and they are starting to win the battle.
The wet weather has also brought on sickness in our herd. We catch and treat several calves each morning and evening at feeding time. Lately, we've brought some pairs to the sick pens for more intensive treatment with fluids by stomach tube.
We've also had a few cases of "colicky bloat" - an acute gut infection that causes sudden bloat or gut pain due to bacteria toxins that shut down the gut. Andrea and I have been walking through the groups every night to treat any new scour cases. We also look for any colicky bloat victims to bring in and treat with castor oil (to get the shut-down gut moving again) before they go into shock.
So, far we've saved all the sick ones. With the stress created by our constantly windy, wet weather, we'll probably be having a lot more cases. It will take diligence to keep them all healthy.