Life is fragile. There are few places where this is better observed than on a farm. We welcome births, but also watch as animals breathe their last. Both can be very emotional moments. To me nothing is worse than watching a calf you helped enter this world a few weeks ago take what you believe could be her last breaths.
The weather here has been horrid lately for young calves. We’ve had odd weather patterns which have given us a mild, damp end to fall. All of us have had to be consistent in watching the babies for signs of pneumonia. If caught early it can often be easily and effectively treated. Tuesday evening a few milk calves just seemed off. Nothing incredibly wrong, but a few didn’t finish their milk and seemed a little sluggish. They were given a dose of antibiotic and no one thought we needed to worry much more.
Upon starting chores Wednesday morning, my dad saw something was very wrong with one of the calves treated the night before. She was out flat, cold, had very dull eyes and was basically unresponsive. We pretty much assumed the worst was going to happen. For what ever reason she had taken a drastic turn for the worse over night. It appeared any efforts we made would be futile.
I made a last ditch effort and administered a bottle of electrolytes with an esophageal feeder, as well as a dose of pain reliever/fever reducer to make her as comfortable as we could. An esophageal feeder is a bottle with a long tube on it. The tube goes in the mouth, down the esophagus and in to the stomach, while using the help of gravity to eliminate the need for the calf to nurse. It is used with sick calves to ill to nurse or in giving newborns colostrum. I went home for breakfast figuring if nothing else, I made her a little more comfortable on her way out.
That afternoon the kids and I stayed home. My husband was doing calf chores and called to see how everyone was doing (3 kids with the stomach flu is no fun). I reluctantly asked about the little calf, assuming I knew what the answer would be. Much to my surprise he said she was sitting up and acted hungry! He gave her her pail of milk and she drank a little more than half on her own. This was no small feat for the shape she was in that morning.
I had the night milking and checked on her before I started. I turned the lights on in the calf barn and had this little face looking at me!
And let me tell you, this little girl was hungry! She wobbled up to me and began sucking on my pants right away. I mixed up another dose of electrolytes for her. Dehydration will kill a sick calf faster than anything. The electrolytes would help her replenish her fluids from being sick. She gobbled them down and still acted hungry. Apparently almost meeting your creator leaves one with one doozy of an appetite!
I finished milking and mixed up a bucket of milk replacer for her. She drank almost all of it. I gave her a good scratch on the chin and went home to bed. I was still worried about her. Although she was looking better, by no means was she out of the woods.
Today little 1460 had her last dose of antibiotics and is doing well. She’s eating and back to normal calf activities. She is a registered calf and needs a name. I’m pretty sure “Lucky” will fit her just fine! It goes to show there’s always a shred of hope.