Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 35

Week 35 was a helluva week.   I don't know where to start.    Not only had things been terribly, horribly wrong in the world at large, our little idyllic life has had a bump or two. 

Well, the cows are calving.  Bam, bam, bam.  Babies all over the place and we are in a drought.  Stage 5 drought and some of our stock ponds are mud holes for the first time and we have been setting up troughs and hauling water and trying to coax cows to new watering holes.  Cows are stubborn beasts.  They will keep going into a chest deep mud hole versus staying in an area they are less familiar with.    Big sigh.   We need more fencing. 

We noticed a little black, white face calf with a dull coat and sucked up flanks at our middle barn.  There was a bunch of cows milling around and a whole flock of little black calves, but none seemed to pay this little mite much mind.  We approached it and it came right over bawling for some food.  Oh dear.  An orphan.  

Drove back to our place and made up a bottle and drove back to middle barn and the little heifer just took right to it.  No fuss at all.  She decided we were here parents just like that.  We decided to keep her in the middle barn on the odd chance that her mama showed up.  She looked just like cow #6, so we had a good idea who had gone missing.  We suspected she died.  We searched around the barn in ever widening circles.  We drove all of the little roads near there.  Nothing.  

24 hours later and still no cow and no buzzards.  Making the 40 minute round trip from our house to the middle barn twice a day was wearing a little thin, so we hauled little 'sassy' to our home barn and settled into the idea of having a little one to tend too.  She really is a cutie.  Spunky, yet sweet.  

24 hours later and Mark found the cow.  She was in bad shape.  She showed up at the middle barn when he was feeding cows.  He drove back to our house and got me and her calf.  I was shocked when I saw her.   She had been a beautiful cow, now she looked like she had aged 10 years.  She was shivering.  She was sick.   Her eyes sunk in her head and all her ribs showed.      We got her into the corrals and she was all confused and kept trying to stagger us over.   She normally was an okay cow to handle.  Not now.  Her bag was humongous and I suspected mastitis had gone systemic.  After quite a lot of fuss (and a mini fight between Mark and I as we often disagree on how to handle the cattle) we got her into the chute and administered a broad spectrum antibiotic.  We gave some banamine too for inflammation, pain and fever.  I went to work on her udder trying to get some of the blood, milk, pus and blood out through one squeeze at a time.  2 quarters cleaned right up and a third looked so-so.  But the fourth one was a mess.  We had put her through enough, so we let her out and she completely ignored her calf.  She didn't try to kill it though, so we left them together in a small pen. 

Next morning Sassy came right for her bottle and drank it up quick.  I walked the short distance to the middle barn to get some hay for the mama cow and by the time I got back Sassy was going to town on the cow's 2 good quarters.    Yea.  They were back together. 

I had to go to town to pick us some more piglets so I also bought some mastitis medicine  that goes into each quarter through the teat.   The cow still was tough to get into the chute, but now we had her calf to use as bait.  Little Sassy would follow us and our bottle anywhere.  We are tricky that way.   Unfortunately,  the mama's udder wasn't clearing up like I hoped and she also still looked really sick and she had horrible runny, black diarrhea .   What was going on?

The next day , while driving around doing a cow and calf  check I found another sick cow.  #38.   She was a beautiful red angus, but just like #6, she now looked terrible.   Something was up.  This was not normal.  

Once at home I did an online search and discovered what we now think is the problem.  Acorn poisoning.  This isn't something we've ever had before and isn't something our previous herdsman Jerry had mentioned to us either.  We suspect that the drought is causing the oak trees to be stressed which is causing them to drop their acorns while still green which is causing our protein starved cows to eat them.  So, we got busy putting out some protein lick buckets and feeding more alfalfa.   The cows took to this like flies on honey. 

Unfortunately it took us 2 days to finally catch cow 38 and her calf.  The calf just had too much spunk in the beginning and we are not ropers. Both nights I worried that something would eat him during the night as his mom was not taking care of him.    Eventually, we got some other cows and calves into the thick wooded area they were in and the calf mingled with the others and we were basically able to get him to walk into the rope.  He was then very happy to get a bottle as his dam was not letting him nurse at all.  We carried him home in the backseat of the truck.

Later when it got cool, we went back and set up a portable catch pen for his very sick mama.  When we arrived she was actually stuck in a little dry creek bed. Luckily, she was able to stagger out after she gained some strength from resting.  I had been pretty much hand feeding her for two days so she followed me pretty easily and loaded like a pro.  She seemed to know we were helping, unlike #6, and didn't try to hurt us at all.   Last night I worked on her udder and it's bad too and she won't yet let her calf suckle much.  I'm hoping it improves as that would help the most. 

Cow #6 is finally pooping normal and is much more alert and docile (thank goodness).  This morning cow #38 was still in pretty bad shape.   I'm not feeding the calves their full amount hoping they will still want to nurse on their mama's as that should help the udder problem the most.   This is the first time we've dealt with this kind of situation, so I hope it works.  Any suggestions would be helpful.    I've read that a lot of cows die from acorn poisoning and if they live they don't utilize feed right and are uneconomical to keep.  Time will tell. 

It is kind of odd that both of these cows don't have names, as most of our cows do.  Perhaps this is just a stunt to get us to know them well enough to give them a fitting name. 

She like the car
milking crew

Bringing home calf #2

The calves first meeting



  1. I am so glad you share all this. Your life is not for me, but I love sharing it with you. I'll say a little prayer -- like chicken soup, it can't hurt.

  2. "Baby on board"


    I had never heard of acorn poisoning. But then, we have pines and spruce and aspen. Good catch, and good luck!



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