Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calf in the bathtub - Welcome to calving season!

As some of you are aware, we're farmers and primarily beef cattle producers. We've just gotten started on our 2010 calving season with three early calves so far.

Our third calf has had some trouble, though. It's mother isn't supplying much milk and after checking the calf one day, I thought I'd give it one more day to see how it was doing as it seemed to be not too bad when I checked it. It was able to get up and its mouth was warm. Unfortunately the next morning it was laying on its side, looking like it was near death.

I quickly got it to the house and put it in the bathtub. Carla put a blanket on it and turned on the bathroom heater. It's mouth was cold now so obviously it's body temperature was very low. We've had quite a few cold damp nights lately which couldn't have been very good for a possibly undernourished calf.

Luckily we had a bit of colostrum stored in the freezer that I had milked from cows in previous years, so we thawed a bottle and I tube-fed the calf to get something warm and nourishing into its belly. After a couple of hours, I started tube feeding Revibe HE, which is high-energy electrolytes. I mixed a package of that with two litres of warm water and fed it over a period of about two hours. She also got a shot of Micotil in case she had a touch of pneumonia. It was about this time we started to see some improvement in the condition of the calf. I think it was about 6pm that I was starting to feel confident that it would survive as it was looking more alert and it's mouth was warming up.

I next mixed up some milk replacer powder with a liter of warm water and fed with a bottle with a nipple on it. When a calf can suck on its own, it's so much easer and a sign that the calf is feeling pretty good again. I did this again at bed time. By now the calf looks almost normal, holding its head up on its own and looking quite alert. But we kept the calf in the tub overnight as I didn't want to send it out in the coldest part of the day.

The next morning I fed the calf milk replacer again, a full feed in two liters of water and then took it out to the field for a happy reunion with it's mother. It's doing fine now, but I am supplementing her with milk replacer once a day and hoping her mother will boost her production over time.

I'm hoping the rest of the calving season goes better. The weather is warming up nicely here, but it's kind of sloppy right now with the melting snow. I wouldn't mind if the rest of the herd waited a bit until the ground dries a bit more. But we've got a start. 3 down, about 65 to go!