Calf crisis ... opinions on prognosis?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by willow_girl, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    The latest from Dysfunctional Acres ...

    Well my boss went to Wisconsin for a couple days for some ag conference. Told me yesterday to feed the calves in the morning while he was gone. Said there was a sick calf in the aisle (didn't specify what was wrong with it) and I should tube it if it wouldn't take a bottle.

    This morning I went to feed the sick one. Now, the aisle is wire grate over a drain with litter (straw etc.) on top. When I tried to get the calf on its feet, I realized it had stuck one of its legs through a hole in the grate, and was trapped.

    Tried to pull it out, but its leg was twisted, and the edges of the wire were pinching it ... I was afraid I'd rip its leg open. So I went and got the feeder, and had her pull on the calf while I tried to free its leg. No dice!

    So we found some bolt cutters and cut all around the grate (what fun) and lifted the calf up and got its leg untangled.

    Now, it had been stuck clear up to its hip, and its little leg was ICY. I mean, DEAD cold! The hock joint was bluish. OTOH, the wire didn't actually puncture its skin anywhere. {We tried to be really careful!!!}

    We got it on its feet and started walking it around some, trying to get the circulation going ... it would put weight on its leg, but kind of "hop" it along. I rubbed and rubbed the leg from top to bottom, even tried putting some linament (Uddermint) on it ... but I really couldn't detect any improvement.

    Had it been my calf, I would have rubbed it all afternoon ... but my boss just gave me a lecture the other day that I was taking too much time getting my work done. :( So I didn't know how long I should keep at it ...

    I did call his wife and apprise her of the situation. She fed the calves last night, so I asked her whether she got the sick one on its feet ... she said no, but that it was trying to get up, but didn't seem to be able to.

    So I think the calf was stuck, with its circulation cut off, for at least 15 and maybe as much as 24 hours.

    What do you think the prognosis will be? Will circulation eventually return? Or,,,,,what? :(
     
  2. landlord

    landlord Well-Known Member

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    Willow: sorry to hear about the calf, I had a ewe jump or attempt to jump a framed hog panel. Her hind leg was threaded through 2 upper squares of the gate and she was trying to maintain her balance on her front legs. God only knows how long she was in this predicament (maybe overnite) but she did limp on her leg for a long time. I do believe she had a gash and I treated it with some ointment to deter flys. But she is still in my breeding flock and not limping.

    I would try to get the calf up a few times/day. If it has lost any nerve damage, the hoof may curl as it is trying to put weight on it. This is what I notice in sheep anyhow. A healthy calf is a moving calf. Sure would hate to have you lose it. good luck...klh
     

  3. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Thanks KLH! I will keep an eye on her and let ya'll know how she's doing.
     
  4. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Hey, she seems to be OK! :)

    The following morning, I checked on her, and she was lying on that leg ... she jumped right up, seemed to have full use of it.

    She's taking her bottle a little more aggressively, too.

    Sad to say, another calf that seemed fine on the morning of the "rescue" incident died that afternoon. :(

    Some of the other calves are coughing ... it really worries me because it's not even cold yet.

    If I were my boss, I'd take 'em all out of there and clean the place out good, scrub everything down with bleach, before it gets too cold.

    I think there's some bacteria or virus hanging around there.
     
  5. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    I'm not a cow person but wh would you have a calf penned up for 24 hours?
    your not running a veal factory are ya?
     
  6. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    No, not veal ... these are dairy calves.

    They live in little pens, about 4 by 6 feet, until they're big enough to go to the heifer barn. The sides of the pens are solid so they can't see each other except across the aisle. They can't really run or jump or play, and they will try to compulsively suck on anything they can get their lips on, even though they were separated from their mothers at birth, and switched from a bottle to a bucket after only about a week ...

    I don't see how it's possible to raise a normal, healthy animal this way, but that's the way it's done. :(

    I have about a month left on this job ... there are some things I won't miss about it!!!!!!!
     
  7. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Well, I guess I was being overly optimistic ... the calf died yesterday. :( :( :(

    Not as a result of the leg incident, though (although it probably didn't help!). I asked my boss what was wrong with her; he said he didn't know, she just "didn't get healthy."

    She was an ET baby ... the egg came out of a heifer my bosses' brother paid $7,000 for. Yes, that's right folks, seven grand for a HEIFER. Gulp!!! :no:
     
  8. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    why would ou work there... thats factory farming.
    I dont have any problem with milking bossie, or taking old red out and whacking him for a good steak.... but the time we keep them alive before hand has to be as humane and uncruel as one can make it.

    whatsa matter... to expensive to give the calves a little room and human contact?

    I suggest (its only a suggestion, not a recomendation) you reserch the skill of "monkeywrenching".

    for reserch/educational reasons only.. of course.

    factory farms s*ck as*.
     
  9. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    I don't see how you are labeling a facility a "factory farm" that lets a calf suckle for a week on the dam, then put in a pen and cared for until they are big enough for the sale barn.

    The "factory dairys" I've seen will pull a calf off the dam immediately and send them to the sale barn. Dairy calves are notorious for "not getting healthy", which is why they are generally taken immediately to a sale barn and sold for a very low price. A dairy could very possibly pump lots of time and money into a calf that just doesn't have the will to thrive on it's own. A lose-lose situation, the calf suffers longer and the dairy is out the time and money.

    At a week old, we separated out calf-cow pair and bottle fed it. At three weeks we taught it to drink from a bucket. He's kept in a stall that is bigger than 4'x6'. With only 4 head of dairy cattle, our practices are quite similar to this facility and I think we raise our animals very humanely.

    I guess it's a matter of perspective.

    Suggest "monkeywrenching" on someone elses farm??? That IS sick.
     
  10. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

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    Willow_girl,

    You seem much too caring to be working in a factory confinement farm.
    Wisconsin has some truly wonderful, grass-fed farmers that would merit your attention. Want to talk to a few. Visit the Raw Dairy group at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawDairy/?yguid=194050801

    You might also check out MidValleyVu Farms http://www.midvalleyvu.com/
     
  11. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Well, yes, all the calves are taken away immediately, although only the bulls get sent to the sale. The mommas are milked on the machine, then the milk is bottled to the calf. Where I work, the heifers only get 1 feed of colostrum, then are switched over to that powdered crap. IMO that's part of the problem right there.

    I have a pen of 4 calves that are 2 weeks old (2 sets of twins, bull calf and freemartin) the farmer hasn't gotten around to taking to the sale barn. I was careful to feed them their own mommas' milk for the first 3 days, then switched over to feeding milk from whatever cow had just freshened after that. They are bright-eyed, healthy and growing like weeds while the heifer calves across the road all are being pumped full of antibiotics just to keep them alive. :no:

    Now, if I had a calf worth $5,000 when it hit the ground, I think I'd make up a special pen, bedded real good, and keep it with momma for the first 3 days. Can't put the milk in the tank anyway, why not let the calf have it? Sure, you might still have to pull the momma out and milk her (because she will make more milk than the calf can use) and it will take a couple extra minutes, but wouldn't it be worth it? It's not like milkers are getting paid a fortune, an extra 10 minutes of my time costs about 75 cents! It's going to do the calf good to have the momma licking on it all the time, stimulating it. It's going to do the cow good to have the calf nursing a lot, keeps the oxytocin flowing, helps her clean. Also no stress from the separation right off the bat, when they're both most vulnerable. Why isn't it done this way?! Doesn't it make sense?!

    Anyway! A year ago I wanted a job working with animals again (used to work for a state humane society, many moons ago!). I checked into going back to school to become a vet tech, found it would cost at least $30K, and techs around here start at $9 an hour. Said "screw that," went out and got a job on a dairy farm. We live in dairy country, we're surrounded by 'em.

    And it wasn't long before I started to question the way things were done. :no:

    But when I thought about quitting, I wondered who would be hired to take my place and whether they would look out for my girls. :waa:

    So, I stayed. For awhile anyway ...

    I just landed a job with the feds (yeah, I know :eek: but it pays good) starting next month, so I'll be leaving after all. Although I hope to still work there part-time, so I can keep an eye on my girls.

    I was able to rescue 2 cows the farmer culled, and there are 2 more I have my eye on. One he had to dry off early because he milked her right up 'til she calved last time, now he b*tches 'cause she's not making enough milk to be profitable. (Bonehead!) I am going to try to take her with me when I go, if not I have a deal with the feeder that she will let me know if he culls her so I can get to the sale in time.

    The other is my favorite cow, she's in her 4th lactation and, well, you know that's getting up there for a dairy cow. :(

    I would like to add that my boss is a good man and he does the best he can. He is a really good dad to his kids. It's "the way things are done" that is screwed up. It's all about money, not the cows. I say if you take care of the cows, they will take care of you. :(

    Here is one of my dairy farm fugitives, Christine, on the day I brought her home from the sale -- filthy, scared, and mad at the world (we had never been able to milk her in the parlor without tying one of her legs up because she kicked so bad):

    [​IMG]

    Here she is today, 4 months later. Instead of traumatizing her more by trying to wrestle milk out of her, I bought a sale calf for her to mother, to "re-program" her with the idea that being milked isn't so bad. I think he has desensitized her a lot, although I won't really know how successful my little experiment was until her next lactation!

    [​IMG]
     
  12. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    please read what I posted, I didn not suggest that. thats your interpretation of the post only.


    oh, a whole 4'x6'... wow. must be a farm really pressed for space.

    lets pen you up in a 4'x6' and see how comfy it is. Cant afford at least a 12x12?
    guess that cuts in on profits.

    its a factory when you economize even the space.

    I didnt lable it a factory becsase it was seperated... its a factory because its seperated and kept in a 4x6.

    When you farm for profit to the point you do not consider that a 4x6 is too small for a calf to walk around, lie down and keep occupied in, you are a factory farmer.
    I know a little about dairy farms, I have a few around me and have worked in them.... I see the difference between a maggot farmer operates to suck every penny out of a cow as long as it remains alive and productive, and one who take a little care, a little compassion, a little effort and a slight drop in his profits to run his farm in a humane and compassionate fashion.
    as willow said, for at least 3 days they dont use the milk, yet they yank the calf on day one. I know dary farmers who leave the calves with the mother for 7 to 10 days till nature and nurture make a good sturdy calf, or a weak calf gets the benifit of no stress and natural milk fed till it recovers. The stress of the yank is part of the problem with sickly calves sometimes.

    lets be perfectly honest, 7 days of milk wont make you or break oyu, but it will make a better calf.

    if you cant afford to lose 7 days of milk, your profit/loss margin is way to slim, get out of the business.

    most factory farmers are living on debt and cant aford a lost 20 dollar bill for any reason.

    I used to work on racehorse farms, they operate the same way. Ice those swolen legs and run him if he breaks down he breaks down he aint making a profit this week.

    Sorry if I offend anyone but i think in different terms. yes a farm is your livelyhood and your business, and you have to turn a profit. but if you cant without cuttiing out every inch of space and every second of wasted time and every penny of cost.... sorry, you suck at farming, go find another line of work.

    I know farmers here of both ways, and the old guys who treat the cows and livestock with their comfort and stress levels as first above profits have better livestock, yes, less profit but they also manage their farms better and have more with less debt than the Business farms.

    if you farm without your heart in it, and your eye on the cash margin, your a factory.

    4'x6' calf stalls are a factory.
     
  13. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Numb, I think you're right.

    I made a list the other day of the cows that had died or been culled in the year since I've been there. I came up with 22. That doesn't count the ones who died down at the dry cow barn, or heifers or calves since I don't take care of them. That's out of a herd of 150. The industry average is a 20-30 percent annual turnover.

    We have 1 cow in her 7th lactation. We have a handful (maybe 4) in their 4th or 5th lactation, about a dozen in their third.

    I'd say a cow has about an even chance of not surviving beyond her second lactation. That's about a five-year-old cow. I know milk production declines as they age, but I can't figure out how you make a profit by spending $1000-$2000 on a cow and only getting a couple years' use out of her. :confused:
     
  14. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    It's your story, you can tell it any way you want.

    Wonderful job on your cow rescue, WG!
     
  15. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Thanks MLF! :)

    I've gotten really attached to Teeny, even though she is kind of obnoxious. :) As soon as she sees me, she starts bellering, expecting to get grain or a treat. She can really make a lot of noise!

    Sometimes it's hard to believe she's the same cow ... on the other farm, she went around with her head down, always seemed depressed. Being a first-calf heifer, she was smaller than a lot of the other cows, and probably got shoved around a bit.

    She has been a good momma to Little Beefy, her foster calf. In the beginning, her udder was so sore that whenever he banged on it, she'd clock him in the head. He learned to ask nicely ... and she learned to let down her milk and let him eat! In the beginning, she wouldn't allow her back teats to be touched at all, but now he nurses those, too. I'm not sure whether she just had a really "tight" udder, or whether something more was going on there. I've read anecdotal evidence that a uterine infection can cause painful lactation, and she didn't clean properly after she calved. At any rate, she seems OK now, and in fact is slated to be AI'ed this afternoon! I had the vet do a breeding exam on her first and he gave her a clean bill of health.

    My other rescue cow, Twister, is more standoffish and shy/scared of people. She's an older cow (about 6 or 7?) and more set in her ways, but I haven't given up hope that she'll settle in here. Still working on getting her trained to the stanchion! She was cystic when she was examined, received Ovacyst and then I did the Ovsynch cycle to bring them into heat at the same time. My boss is coming up this afternoon to do the job for me, ya'll keep your fingers crossed! :)

    BTW, Twist, since she's registered, will receive Holstein semen, but I decided to put a Jersey to Teeny because I'm really fond of those Jersey-Holstein crosses! :)
     
  16. Christina R.

    Christina R. Well-Known Member

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    Willow Girl (and all others),

    I have a question about a cow being on her second lactation and being 5 years old. I thought cows needed to be rebred every year to keep producing the milk. Our gal is 27 months old, so her second lactation will be when she is 3 years old. I was going to have her dry off for at leat 2 if not 3 months before she calves again.

    I don't have her rebred yet. Her calf is almost 9 weeks old and I was going to rebreed her on her next heat, but if she will go another year without being rebred, then that is fine with me. Did I misinterpret something?

    Christine is a beauty. Our gal has limited space (about 1/10 of an acre, but she is spoiled beyond belief (hay and grain fed, fruit and veggie treats, time in the field across the way... even though it is Flagstaff scrub grass...brushed, sung too, and all around doted on). I know she'd have more room other places, but not necessarily the attention. Our vet keeps reminding me on a dairy farm, she'd have way less.

    Thanks for all your posts.
     
  17. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Christina, there could be a couple reasons a cow might be on only her second lactation at age 5. The obvious one would be fertility problems ... cystic, or just hard to get to settle, or she's aborting the calves early on. In a commercial dairy, she probably would have been culled, but a smallowner (like myself) might take a chance on a cow with a history of fertility problems, as I did with Twister, since she's registered, and a great candidate for hand milking due to her wonderful huge teats! :D

    Another possibility, if this is a family cow -- perhaps the owners simply didn't get around to breeding her back when they should have. Maybe they got tired of milking for awhile, or a bull wasn't readily available, but they kept the cow anyway for a pet.

    I'm not sure if you're asking because you're looking to buy a cow like this, but if that's the case I'd ask a lot of questions!!!

    Cows do need to be rebred on roughly an annual cycle to stay in milk. Commercial dairies breed them back at about 45 days. I guess the second heat cycle, postpartum, is more fertile than the first.

    Cows should be dried off for 45-60 days before freshening. My boss says some research indicates 30 days is acceptable, but personally I don't agree! :p I've read that you MUST dry off at least 2 weeks prior to calving in order for the antibodies in the colostrum to build up to a suitable level to protect the calf.

    Not drying off cows on schedule (not saying you'd do this, Christina! :) ) really diminishes milk production in the following lactation ... I'm seeing this firsthand with some of the girls at work, who were milked right up 'til they calved last winter. :(

    One thing you want to avoid is going too long between freshenings ... I don't think I'd wait a whole year to rebreed. It seems like it would be kinder to the cow to give her a long hiatus, but from what I've read, it actually increases the risk of complications ... maybe from having to ramp up all that hormonal and general physiological activity? Like going from 0 to 60? :confused:

    That said, Christine calved 'way back in March, and I've just now gotten around to getting her bred. :eek:
     
  18. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    MLS...

    look for the word research in the post.

    now, find a dictionary and look up the definition.

    yes... thats my stroy and i'm sticking to it. I didnt suggest anyone monkeywrench anyone for any reason... I suggested that they should research the skill.

    I also suggest people research such odd subjects as witchcraft, UFO's and BDSM just to be educated about such things. What you do with the information is your choice.

    but you have a good point, if we put our head in the sand and pretend everything is all peachy and keen, we dont have to learn or research anything!
    :haha:

    willow, if you put a bag over your head at work, no cows will die, none will be mistreated and everything will be picture perfect...

    :haha:
     
  19. Christina R.

    Christina R. Well-Known Member

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    Thx Willow,

    I think she'll be in heat for the 3rd time this weekend (she went into heat like clockwork 3 weeks after the baby is born). This weekend is pretty busy, so we'll wait one more round, which will put the baby born again in Mid Aug (during monsoons, which we were trying to avoid, but sometimes you just do what you have to do).

    She seemed to be in heat last weekend, which would have been a week early, but we'll play it by ear. We bring her to a dexter bull about 1 hour and 15 minutes from here. Someday I may try AIing, but my gal isn't a registered holstein (she has black below her knees, so she wouldn't qualify). Maybe at the end of next week I can post a picture of her. Right now I only have pictures of her laying down during birthing.

    Enjoy your weekend, everyone.
     
  20. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Well her last calf was certainly gorgeous, Christina! I'd say you can't go wrong using the same bull again! :)