Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sad news again . . .

I wrote a few days ago that I was worried about Essie Mae - she is so little, and this is her first calf.  She was bred too soon.  I should have gotten Jack out of the pen with her and Zelda a little sooner.  What was I thinking? 

Saturday morning, Essie freshened.  I found her and the calf as I was loading the car with milk to go to market.  I knew the calf didn't look right, but I was relieved to see that Essie seemed fine.  I called Androo as I headed down the lane, and he came down to see what he could do.  Poor Androo!  He had to deal with Lucky when she had a dead calf a year ago, and he had to help pull the dead calf from Skipper last November.  So here he was again, with a little one whose chances didn't look good.  Androo called me several times, keeping me informed of what he was doing.  He helped dry him, and he made a bed of fresh straw.  Then he made sure his breathing was not being blocked.  That is what happened with Lucky's calf, we think, so we had a tool in the barn for clearing airways.  Androo used it just to make sure, and he swung the calf around by its back legs, which is a foolproof way to clear air passages.  He called to say the breathing seemed okay, but the bull calf couldn't stand to suckle.  It sounded like there were some neurological problems.  We had some of Blackie's colostrum in the barn, and I asked Androo to warm some of it and get it down the little bull's throat.  He took about a pint, but still couldn't stand.

Androo had to leave for work.  I called Liefschon, who was milking that afternoon, and let her know of the situation.  She made a point of getting out to the farm a little early.  She called to tell me there was foam coming from the calf's nose.  Essie would get very agitated when any of us handled the calf.  I thought to myself, "This calf is going to die.  We should not interfere with mother and child."  I told Liefschon to leave the calf alone, to let nature take its course.  She said that Essie Mae settled down beside the calf and licked it from time to time.

When I got back from market, the calf was still alive, but just barely.  I didn't get close, but just left the two of them alone.  Later that night, I heard Essie crying.  Who says that animals do not have emotions?  I knew the calf had passed - and so did Essie.  She mourned her child.

I didn't sleep well, knowing what I was going to have to deal with in the morning.  I finally got up as the sun rose.  No putting it off any longer.  I took care of the chickens, then watered the cows and fed everyone.  Then I took the sled into the nursing pen and found the calf.  I gently laid it on the sled and hauled the little body out to the wagon.  He was so tiny, so light, that I easily picked up him and the sled and put them both into the wagon.  I drove to the end of the lane, then took the calf out of the wagon on the sled and pulled him between two rows of pine trees.  I laid him out, said a prayer over him and thanked him for being a part of our world for just a few hours.  The coyotes will feast on him.  That is all part of nature.  I am crying again as I write this.  Poor Essie.  She is crying again tonight.  Poor little calf.  This is a hard life.

Essie Mae coming in to be milked this afternoon

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