The other day I had moved a cow from our “moo-ternity” (maternity) pen over to the sand-bedded calving pack. She seemed to be calving normally, so not too much thought went into the action, and I planned to check on her again in a bit. I turned away and did a couple of other things.
By the time I came back, about 20 minutes later, she was standing up and cleaning the healthy newborn bull calf. I decided to give them some time and walked away so she wasn’t focused on me and could get him dry. Usually by the time I get the colostrum warmed the cow has had enough time to do this.
While warming the colostrum, I went back to the office to write and enter the calving information into the computer systems. Sitting at my desk, I looked over to the monitor screen to see that not only was the cow no longer cleaning the calf but that she was laying down away from him on her side. A full placenta sack was next to her; it was intact with a calf inside. I ran as fast as I could to the calving pen and ripped into the sack. The calf was not moving, blinking, or breathing.
I immediately went to work. I made sure nothing that I could see was in her airways. I knelt down, propped her up on the side of my hip, latched my hands around her mouth to keep it closed, put two fingers over one nostril, and started giving mouth-to-nose calf CPR. I blew as long and hard as I could into the other nostril a couple of times, massaged the side of her chest closest to her heart, and then repeated blowing back into her nostril. I did this a few times before I received a faint “gurgle.”
I pinched her eyelid and got a tight blink back. So, I continued CPR until she started to pull air into her lungs on her own. Once I thought she was in the clear. I made sure her legs were properly placed under her so her chest could expand and retract with ease and made my way over to the feedbunk to grab piece of straw. I inserted the end of the straw into her nose, making her cough a few times to make sure the air way was clear enough to walk away and let the dam take over.
I walked away completely covered in calving liquids. It took me a few seconds to catch my breath and realize that if I hadn’t done what I did, we would have lost that calf. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have done this same thing, but the calf didn’t live. It’s a gut wrenching feeling to sit back afterward, thinking about the entire process you just went through to get the worst results. It’s heartbreaking. But it is worth trying because the few times you are successful makes all unsuccessful times worth going through.
Sometimes we get lost in the bad and sad stuff. But days like this day make you realize how good life is. Going through all the hard and unsuccessful stuff in life to get to the great and enjoyable things is all worth it.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.