Lynn and Jim spent a week at Mackay in early March, helping our son Michael and family move back to their place at Alder Creek. Lynn moved a lot of snow with a tractor and blade so they could get in there with semis and trucks to unload hay and 125 cows with calves. Their scour epidemic ended soon after they moved to the clean place.
After Lynn and Jim got back, we vaccinated and deloused the yearling heifers. The live virus vaccine (IBR, BVD, PI3) must be given to non-pregnant animals a couple weeks before they are bred, so it was time to get them done.
We sorted them into two breeding groups this year. Last year with 51 heifers in one group, the bulls got worn out in the first two weeks. We have a dependable older bull and two yearling bulls with them (we didn't gamble on having just one bull, since there's often three or four heifers in heat at once). But the older bull spent a lot of time and effort doing most of the breeding and fighting off the younger bulls.
We have a short breeding season (32 days) since our fertile crossbreds are mostly bred and settled within the first 21 days. It's easier on the bulls to have the heifers in two small groups (with fewer bulls) rather than one large bunch.
We're now 12 days into the breeding season (and nearly 3/4 of the heifers have bred) and it's working well. We have one older bull and one young bull with each group of heifers; the older one does most of the breeding but the younger one is there for backup if there's a lot of action at once.
Fighting Pneumonia The calf that had pneumonia so severely has finally recovered. He was born Feb. 10 in the barn on a cold night. When he was 45 minutes old, Andrea and I dried him with towels and fed him part of a bottle of fresh colostrum, then tried to help him nurse his mother, Dowdy.
It took all his effort to stand and he wouldn't nurse, so we fed him via stomach tube. He was still cold, but we thought he'd be OK since he had a tummy full of colostrum and Dowdy was licking him. We misjudged this one, however; he should have been brought into the house to completely warm up.
A few hours later he was still cold and had not nursed on his own. Again, we milked Dowdy and fed the calf via tube. By morning we realized he had a serious problem. Dowdy had finally shed her afterbirth and it was gray and unhealthy-looking. The calf had probably been deprived of blood circulation and nutrients before birth, which might be why he was so listless. He had a fever and was breathing fast and shallow.
We started him on antibiotics and medication to help him breathe easier. He still would not nurse, so we were milking Dowdy every six hours and feeding the calf by tube.
During his first week of life we treated him intensively and milked his mother; he was seven days old before he felt well enough to nurse her. Then after he'd been free of pneumonia symptoms for four days, we made the mistake of assuming he'd recovered, and halted antibiotic. He relapsed, so we put him back on medication. He was lethargic and had to be encouraged to get up and suck his mother, and sometimes we had to milk her and tube him.
He and Dowdy lived in the barn for five weeks while we treated him. Finally he started nursing well again and we let the pair out into a nearby pen, putting them back in the barn every time the weather got bad. We had so much time, effort and medication invested in him, we sure didn't want another relapse.
Was it worth the effort? It's like a poker game - we had so much in the pot already, we didn't dare quit. But our diligence was more than monetary. We have a commitment to our cattle to keep them fed and healthy, and we don't take it lightly.
We turned the pair out with the other cows at eight weeks of age since he seems fully recovered and Dowdy will need to get bred. Watching him running and play-fighting with the other calves gave me a great sense of satisfaction.