Goodness, things are happening when it comes to the little critters out here.

Spring calving began in late July and should be wrapping up shortly.  I called my buddy at the dairy farm and asked if I could accompany him during his afternoon calving beat.  For those of you not in the know, calving beats are when you walk the paddocks looking for ladies having a difficult birth.  I assumed we’d be going for a nice walk in the grass and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’d see a few newborns prancing about.

I was wrong.

Notice they're wearing head-to-toe rain gear. I thought it was overkill. Again, I was wrong.

Vettie students are a strange bunch.  You mention to another student you may potentially get to deal with blood, guts, and/or baby animals and next thing you know you’re carpooling.  So Jessica, a 4th year vet student eager to deliver more calves, joined us for our stroll with the cows.

We first encountered this poor cow.  Both Brent and Jessica jumped into action.  I on the other hand, grabbed the camera.

When seeing her in this position, the others knew this girl was in serious trouble (I thought she was just getting in a comfortable position to push).  Jess ran up to her and immediately shot her hand right up into the birth canal up.  She was now laying face down in an open paddock with her hand up a cow.

And it began to rain.  I was suddenly very jealous of their waterproof gear.

While Jess felt around for the calf’s head to check position, Brent called me over to insert a jugular IV line to push as much calcium into the cow as fast as possible.  When a cow is down, that means she’s been in labor so long she is now too exhausted to help push the calf out.  The metabolic imbalance caused by this difficult birth also means both she as well as the calf are about to be lost.

While I secured the IV line, Jess did her best to keep the cow from trying to shake me off.  Brent got to work on getting the calf out.

The calf was in a terrible position.  Instead of positioned to dive out head first, the calf’s head was bent backwards.  The only way to correct this was to secure a loop of rope around the lower jaw of the calf and pull the head into position.

After the calf’s position had been corrected, Brent tied the rope around the calf’s legs.  Jess and I both pulled with everything we had but that calf was firmly stuck.

Brent tied the rope around his waist, dug his heels in the mud and leaned back until the calf finally gave way.

The calf was out – a tiny little heifer.  But she was born dead.

Brent placed the calf in front of the cow where she busied herself with cleaning and grooming her calf.  We took advantage of her distraction to push more fluids and meds into her.

Brent left the calf with the mother overnight.  In the morning the calf would be removed.

But it’s not all sadness.

This little calf decided he would give me hell as I dared walk near his mother.  So I did get to see a few newborns prancing about.