Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's a Boy!

 Early Thursday morning, as in 3 o'clock in the am, Molly delivered a tiny little bull calf.  Of course it was the coldest time of day while it was snowing.

I had went out to check her at midnight.  All seemed well, but knowing how quickly that can change I set my alarm for 3.  It took every ounce of self-control to drag myself out of that bed.  I'm so glad I did.  Hiding along the fence, behind a bunch of trees, Molly was drying off her new little baby.  I didn't want to disturb her, so I kept my distance.  After quietly observing them for a few moments, I went back to bed.  

At 6 am, I was back out hoping to get a better look.  This time he was standing.  Good sign.  I went back to the house to get the kids ready for school and finish other chores.  A couple hours later I went back out to see if she would let me closer.  She was lying under a tree and didn't make a move to get up, so I approached her calf.  He was so small that I wanted to cry.  I was certain that he was going to die.  He was violently shaking, and was just skin and bones.  I suddenly realized that he hadn't nursed yet.  After a frantic call to the vet, and then to my neighbor who raises cattle, I went back out to try to assist him in nursing.  My neighbor "Tracy" came over and helped me move him to the barn.

He refused to nurse, so we tried a bottle.  He refuse a bottle, so we had to milk out Molly and tube the colostrum down him.  What. A. Nightmare.  All day he just laid shivering in the barn.  That evening Tracy came over and helped us tube him again.  I gave him a shot of Vitamin B as a boost.  Friday he still wasn't sucking, but he looked a little better.  He followed his mama to the far corner of the pasture and spend the day in the same spot.  When Nathan got home, he carried him back down to the barn.


Of course he STILL wouldn't nurse or take a bottle.  This time we felt confident enough to tube him ourselves.  

Refusing the bottle

Molly is such a gentle animal.  The entire time we were "torturing" her calf she gently mooed and would occasionally give him a lick.  The only thing she doesn't tolerate is the dog... sorry Darcy.

Stay tuned for more exciting calf drama.  Will Fival ever take a bottle?  Is Molly really recovered from her delivery?  What do Pearl and Timon think of their new pasture mate?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Preparing for Calving - Part 2

NOTE: So a lot has happened since my last post.  If you follow me on Facebook you already know that Molly calved on Thursday in the wee hours of the morning (more on that later).  While her delivery went off without a hitch, I'm glad that I was prepared because of issues that developed later.

Please keep in mind that this post was written before she calved (just not posted).

With Molly 2 weeks from calving, I have been busy researching everything from breech births to edema.  Having a dairy breed (Jersey) is different from having a meat breed (Dexter).  For example Molly has a higher risk of milk fever, ketosis, edema, and mastitis.  Slowly but surely I have been creating a plan for anything that might possibly go wrong.

This post is more for myself as a reference.  Although I have done LOTS of reading, I am still new to most of this and would appreciate input and advice from more experienced milk cow owners.

Milk Fever 

Generally happens after calving.  The cows body starts using calcium from the blood stream instead of the bones to produce milk.  There can also be an imbalance of  phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.  This can quickly lead to death if not treated.  My plan is to try to prevent milk fever by stopping all grain and alfalfa at least 2 weeks before her due date.  This will signal her body to start pulling calcium from reserves and create a gradual demand instead of a huge, sudden demand.

In addition to stopping grain, I will begin giving her water with a small amount of Epsom salt added.  Once her labor starts, she will receive a tube of Safe-Cal.  Safe-Cal is a non-irritating, oral calcium supplement.  I will also offer her warm water with molasses.  Some people also give a shot of vitamin D before calving.  Should she get milk fever, I will treat with a tube of C.M.P.K.  This will provide her with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.  Should she not show improvement within an hour, I will give her a SubQ of calcium gluconate followed by a dose of dextrose for added energy.  After a few hours, if she still isn't improving, I'll give her another tube of C.M.P.K. and call the vet.


"Ketosis is an elevated level of ketones in the blood associated with a negative energy balance that occurs in most cows during the early stages of their lactation (2-6 weeks into lactation, most cows get ketosis around week 3 after freshening) and occasionally mid-late lactation cows." (Spirited Rose Farm)

Should Molly start to show signs of ketosis (loss of weight, breath smells like acetone, nervous) I will do a home test with ketone strips.  If her ketones are high then I will give her a shot of vitamin B complex and increase her carbs by adding more alfalfa, cracked corn and lots of molasses.  If a day later her ketones are still high, I will give her more vitamin B and some propylene glycol.  A combination of adjusting her feed, molasses and vitamin B should lower her ketones get her back to normal.


I am planning to prevent mastitis by clipping her udder after calving to remove hair that will prevent dirt and manure from clumping.  I will also use a teat dip before and after each milking to prevent bacteria from entering the teat.  Should I suspect mastitis, I will either use a home mastitis test or send a sample to the vet.  To treat mastitis I plan to massage the udder with tea tree oil and peppermint, and administer an antibiotic.  Should Molly start to lose energy, I will give her a dose of dextrose.


Edema is the acclimation of fluid in the udder.  Since Molly isn't a first timer calver, she has a low risk of serious edema.  To treat mild edema, I will massage an udder cream containing peppermint and tea tree oil on her udder when milking.  Limiting salt will also help with fluid retention. 

My husband thinks I'm crazy for buying so much stuff, but I would rather spend $75 on supplies and not need them, than need them and not have them and my cow dies.  Fingers crossed and prayers said, all will go well.


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