Returning home from a wonderful Market Day in Taylor, I found the cows, as usual, at the fence line asking for more hay. I noticed that one cow was by herself and made a mental note to check on her. Several chores later, while taking hay out to the cows, I remembered the lone cow. So I put on my muck boots and waded through our not-so-dry creek bed to see what was what. As I suspected, she had a calf.
What I didn't expect is that the little fellow was laying in a pool of muddy slop. Because the land slopes pretty steeply to the creek, I imagine he kept moving downward as he tried to get up on his wobbly legs (more on that in a minute). He was chilled to the bone and very weak.
After hauling him to high ground and attempting to get him to stand for several minutes, I decided more invasive measures were needed. I ran back to the house to get the tractor. I was able to load him into the bucket and bring him back home, where we hosed him down with warm water. After a fluff and buff, a shot of B12 and some antibiotics, I took him back to his mother. He still wasn't able to stand, but as he seemed in good health and it was getting dark, I said a prayer and called it a day
In the morning I was suspicious as the mother was standing down by the creek again. So having donned my boots and coveralls (it was a brisk 33deg), I headed back out to see what was amiss. And there was the calf in the mud again trying to stand. Again gravity was working against him and he must have wobbled his way down the hill. He was just at the edge so another bath wasn’t necessary. I carried him to a high, flat area and tried to help him stand. It was then I noticed he was unable to get his left front leg underneath him. There is a malady called contracted tenon that sometimes effects newborns. The fetlock joint just above the hoof is unable to straighten out. Effectively the calf ends up standing on its toes and the joint rolls over to where he’s standing on his wrist.
Being unable to stand, he was unable to nurse. So it was back to the house to mix up a warm bottle of colostrum. It’s important that calf’s get colostrum early to ensure they have a healthy immune system and get them off to a good start. And thankfully I was well stocked up in the event of an emergency like this. After a few minutes struggling to get the nipple into his mouth he gladly sucked down about 2 pints. All the while he was taking the bottle, I was trying to stretch out the tenon. I tried to get him back on his feet again, but he had a full belly and was pretty tired. Unfortunately the times I did get him on his feet, the front left fetlock kept doubling over and he’d wobble over. Remember he’s only a few hours old and not very sure footed as it is, so being lopsided on one leg doesn’t help. I’ve had this happen with a lamb before and was able to splint the leg with PVC pipe until the weight of walking stretched out the tenon. I’ll keep an eye on him to see if he is able to stand, but most likely this is we’re we’ll end up.
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