Mother Nature didn’t shut down

According to my calendar, we’re entering another week of government shutdowns…and it doesn’t appear as if there is an end in sight. After this weekend’s early blizzard in the upper Midwest, I have a few things that are on my mind.

Apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that there was a government shutdown. In fact, Mother Nature decided to show many just who is in charge…and it was a hard lesson learned. They estimate that as many as 100,000 cattle have died from the results of the massive blizzard that took many by surprise.

Yes, snow in October is expected. But this was more than snow.

And where is the assistance? The websites of information that could be used to help? Oh, sorry, didn’t you hear about the furlough?

But don’t worry, while the government is shutdown, hosting its own two-year-old tantrum, claiming that no one wants to play fair, workers that aren’t guaranteed pay are pitching in to help, organizations are offering services to connect those that have lost cattle and those that have found cattle, setting up sites for information and tips on how to make sure your losses are reported.

At a time when assistance from elected officials could be felt the most, there is no one there to answer the phone.

#DearCongress: Mother Nature is not on furlough. Farmers and ranchers are not on furlough. Emergency workers are not on furlough. It’s time to do what you were elected to do…grow up and represent our country, lead us to a better future, not down a path of destruction.

On the plus side, perhaps this shutdown will lead many to decide that it is time to step out of the shadows and start becoming actively involved in our government. Remember, this is our government…not just the government.

Run for office, whether it be township, county commission, school board, state or local offices. Let your voice be heard. Write letters. Make phone calls. It is well past the time to start charting our course back on track.

We cannot go back and change the actions of the past, but we certainly can make sure that our future is a different story.

A government shutdown will not have an impact on Mother Nature. But it can unite us in a drive to finally do what we should have been doing all along…be involved.

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Animal care – it’s what we do…an update

Last spring I wrote about a little calf on our farm that we found had a broken jaw. In some cases, it may have been considered a lost cause, but our vets are pretty special, and most farmers that I know would do anything to alleviate pain and suffering in an animal.

This is what “Darrel” looked like when he was in the process of being fixed (read the original story here):

broken jaw fixed on calf

The calf is still sedated, but the jaw is now aligned and secured to heal. Notice the feeding tube, so that proper nutrition can be maintained.

And I’m happy to say that this is “Darrel” now:

And this is the calf a few months later!

And this is the calf a few months later!

Injured calf on the mend

Even with a broken jaw, this calf was able to continue to get the nutrition it needed.

So why share such a story? Well, it seems so many times we hear the evils of farms and ranches that raise animals for food…and most of the times those stories are exaggerated, fabricated or taken out of complete context. But it doesn’t change the fact that our farm and farms just like ours do the best that we can, for each and every animal that we raise.

Including a small calf with a broken jaw.

Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like the fairytale we wish, sometimes the cause is lost before you even begin the fight, but as we weigh the benefits and the risks, the pros and the cons, we all have one thing in common: we want to eliminate needless suffering.

Sometimes that takes a round or two of antibiotics, sometimes it takes a call to the veterinarian and a surgery…and sometimes it means letting go and making sure that the animal is put to rest as quickly as possible.

But I will admit, I like the happy endings a lot better.

Mandible mayhem

WARNING: This post may be graphically upsetting to some! (Consider yourself warned)

Really.

No, it may not be a pretty sight.

Well, actually, it’s not that bad, just makes you feel a little bad for the poor thing.

Here’s the scoop: on Easter Sunday Boss Man’s amazing sister and her husband were out helping Mark with a few of our sick calves. Sick calves happen sometimes, but we wanted to have an expert’s opinion (or opinions in this case) and wanted to make sure that the treatment protocol was correct. (Did I mention that my wonderful sister-in-law and her husband are BOTH veterinarians? We are so very, very blessed!)

While out in the lot, looking at the calves that weren’t feeling so hot, they came across one that seemed to be a bit more out of sorts than the others. And quickly realized that this calf was in need of help.

broken jaw, veterinarian, healing a calf

The calf is sedated (which is why it looks so loopy) and the x-ray showed what the vets knew to be true, the jaw is broken.

So, our vets took over and loaded the calf and the cow up in our trailer and hauled it the 2 1/2 hours to their office. And there they did an amazing job fixing it up, so that within a few weeks this calf will be completely healed.

broken jaw fixed on calf

The calf is still sedated, but the jaw is now aligned and secured to heal. Notice the feeding tube, so that proper nutrition can be maintained.

The feeding tube was placed so that we can make sure that the calf is getting all the nutrition that it needs. It’s free to suck from the cow if/when the calf is up to it, but all healing needs proper nutrition. Every day, Boss Man milks the cow by hand, and feeds the rest of the milk to the calf through this tube.

You may be wondering what happened to cause the break, and although we didn’t see it happen, we can about guess. It appears as if the calf was kicked by one of the cows. Now, it could have been its own mother, not liking something that was happening when the calf was sucking, or perhaps the calf was trying to suck off another cow and ended up kicked? We’ll never know for sure, but all we needed to know was that the calf needed help.

So, is the calf sickly and moping? Does it spend its days in the barn? Not at all. Its outside, enjoying the spring air on the farm, coming in at night to be fed and rest in the barn. It is in a more secluded pen, but there are other calves and cows with it.

calf with broken jaw

This calf is now ready to come back to the farm, all fixed up! We’ll be keeping an eye on it, making sure healing progresses, and recheck in a few weeks!

As you can see, the calf is perky and was ready to make the trek back home. Isn’t it amazing what can be done?

I want to really thank our wonderful vets for taking such amazing care of our herd, even from so many miles away. I know just how lucky we are to have such a great team.

And don’t worry, I’ll keep you up-to-date on the progress of this calf. It already looks a ton better, just from the swelling going down!

As you can see, we go the extra mile to make sure our cattle (and calves) are cared for…but we’re open to answer any questions you may have, so ask away!

Calving: Backwards Calf

Last weekend I was helping out Boss Man by checking cows. It’s become one area of the farm that I’ve been able to get more involved in, and I love it!

During these cold winter months, we check the cows that are due to calve at least every two hours. We do this to try to guarantee that calves are born inside the barn, where it’s warm and protected, not outside in the cold. Another reason to check on the cows frequently is to be able to step in when there’s a problem…and on this particular day, there was one.

One of the things that I look for when checking cows is the presentation of the calf being born. As I talked about a few days ago, sometimes calves can present in ways that jeopardize their chances of being born safely, much like when a woman is pregnant and the baby is breech, transverse, etc.

When a calf is presenting in the best way possible, they come out feet first, headlong…kind of like they’re diving out of the birth canal. You look for the feet to be toes down, or the hoof to be pointing down towards the ground.

If you look under the tail, you can see that this calf is being born with its toes pointed down. By catching the cow at this stage, she was able to walk to the barn and safely have the calf indoors.

If you look under the tail, you can see that this calf is being born with its toes pointed down. By catching the cow at this stage, she was able to walk to the barn and safely have the calf indoors.

Unfortunately, when I noticed that this particular cow was calving, the toes were pointing up, indicating that the calf was coming backwards. In this case, the calf needs to be born quickly, so that it’s chance of survival is greatest.

This is a diagram of what a calf being born backwards looks like. A quick delivery is the best way to guarantee that the calf has its greatest chance of survival.

This is a diagram of what a calf being born backwards looks like. A quick delivery is the best way to guarantee that the calf has its greatest chance of survival.

I let Boss Man know what I had found, and he was able to assist the cow in having the calf quickly by attaching pulling chains to the back feet, and pulling the calf out at the same time that the cow is pushing. Together they quickly delivered a healthy calf.

It’s great to know that your hard work and dedication can pay off, especially when sleep is short and the list of things to do gets long.

Have any other questions about calving? Be sure to ask, and I’ll explain what I can (and look up what I can’t!).

WW – Calving 2013

I have a lot of stuff running through my head, but not enough time to write it all down. Here’s some cuteness to get you through the day:

A peak at a new calf through the gate in the barn.

A peak at a new calf through the gate in the barn.

Fresh on the farm!

Fresh on the farm!

This is the fourth bull calf from #27, the famous cow the tweets!

This is the fourth bull calf from #27, the famous cow the tweets!

Just catching some rays!

Just catching some rays!

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Most kids get in trouble when they drink milk straight from the carton!

Most kids get in trouble when they drink milk straight from the carton!

WW – Calving workout fashions

I’m short on words today. Well, actually, more like out of breath and can’t talk, but same difference.

This morning, Boss Man called and needed help getting a cow in. She wasn’t supposed to calve yet, so she was out with the rest of the herd. We bring them in as their due dates arrive, so that we can carefully watch those that are close, and still give lots of exercise and space to those that are further out. This cow ended up giving birth to a dead calf. What was the problem? We’ll never really know, but since our herd has a high percentage of twin calves born, Boss Man thought that she may have a second calf, so we needed to bring her in.

Problem was, she didn’t want to come in.

In fact, she rather preferred being out where she was.

And so she kept returning.

And returning.

And after chasing her through knee-deep snow for 45 minutes, her and four of her best bussie buddies decided to come into the yard…as if it were their own idea.

Needless to say, it was a really great, intense cardio workout. And I would have appreciated it more, had I not just finished 20 minutes on the elliptical. Seriously. The scale better show some excellent progress tomorrow.

That being said, I have to give props to my boot purchase from last summer. I picked up a pair of Bogs on clearance at a nearby Scheels store. (Nearby being 2 1/2 hours from here. Distance is relative, I guess.)

I love my new boots! Comfy, warm, and they stay on my feet! (And just so happen to be cute!)

I love my new boots! Comfy, warm, and they stay on my feet! (And just so happen to be cute!)

I always wore Muck boots, but they would make the backs of my ankles sore after walking in the snow for any length of time. These fit like a glove, keep my feet warm and dry, and I don’t have to worry about Boss Man slipping them on accidentally! (Or any of the boys, either!)

Nap time, here I come…

No one gave me these boots, I paid for them with my own money…or it may have been a gift card…or something. Point is, neither company know that I exist, and all the thoughts above are my own – as scattered as they may be.

Calving season has started

Yesterday was a day to mark down on our calendars – literally. We had two heifers calve, which means that calving season has officially begun. Unfortunately, one calf was born dead, which is always a hard situation to take.

So what went wrong? Well, somehow, during the birthing process, the calf ended up having a foot back. You see, a calf should be born like this:

But instead, it looked something like this:

And Boss Man did what he could to bring the foot forward, so the calf could be born safely, but sometimes it doesn’t work out…and this was one of those cases. We do our best not to intervene unless we have to, but you never know what Mother Nature has in store for you.

This morning I was fortunate to go out right at sunrise. And with the new day:

At first light, I noticed something on the straw.

At first light, I noticed something on the straw.

The sun was just kissing the sky as I went out.

Comes new beginnings:

This heifer is a good mama.

The only problem with the calf being born on the straw, is that it’s only 19 degrees outside. Not ideal for a wet, warm calf fresh to the world. So I called Boss Man down and let him know what was going on. New mothers aren’t always predictable, can be feisty and mean, and really don’t appreciate their calves being messed with…so I let my hubby deal with the logistics of getting the calf someplace warmer. (It’s kind of like him doing laundry, I’m not happy, he’s not happy, so it’s just best if I do it myself.)

Boss Man uses the calf sled to bring the calf to the barn. Mama is close behind, making sure her calf is safe and doesn’t get too far from her!

The last 12 hours have had its highs and lows, but I know that we are where we’re supposed to be…and days like today make it all worthwhile.

No man needs sympathy because he has to work . . . Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

– Theodore Roosevelt