The last 72 hours have been a race against time on the Rock Farm. Our maiden heifers have been calving and whilst the first seven calves arrived without any trouble at all, calf number eight changed everything.
We found a very exhausted calf and Mum on Sunday morning, both in a very poor way. The calf was unable to get up, and it was clear hadn’t been able to suckle from Mum. Mum was lying several metres away, also unable to get up, with a very sore hind leg. It was pretty grim however we decided to not interfere initially and give them a couple of hours to see if the warmth of the sun would give the calf enough energy to get up and have a drink.
These things always happen when I am at work, and the burden of managing the evolving situation fell on Jo, the kids and our wonderful neighbours. After a few hours of waiting, it became clear we needed to intervene. Mum had managed to get up, however had left the calf. She was clearly very lame and was unable to assist in any way. I feared she was so badly injured we would have to put her down. We brought the calf into our sheltered yard beside the shed and attempted to give her a drink.
Poor Daisy as she was now known took a few attempts to get the hang of suckling our modified colostrum mix. The first feed is so important, however we had to make do with our mix of milk, warm water, raw egg and hemp oil.
When I got home from work that evening, we found Mum was much more mobile. Whilst she was obviously very sore, she was able to hobble, and we moved her into the yard with Daisy. This process in the dark wasn’t exactly easy, as we ended up with half a dozen of her friends in the paddock as well – however in the end it was relatively straightforward to cut her out of the herd. Our efforts in making the cattle quiet paid dividends that night.
The following morning revealed a very protective Mum, and a lethargic Daisy. In order to safely feed Daisy, I had to push Mum out into the next paddock. I always move the cattle with a long stick in my hand. Usually it acts as an extension of my arm, enhancing my body language to the cattle – however Mum sized me up and I gave her a rap over the nose. I was pleased Mum was very obviously guarding her precious calf as I feared she would have rejected Daisy, but I was also thankful for the stick in my hand.
Over the course of the day I fed Daisy regularly, however she still didn’t seem to want to stand up. When the kids got home from school, I got them to keep an eye on Mum as we attempted to teach Daisy to stand with the aim of her being able to feed unaided.
At the end of day two, I sat down with Jo and looked at our options. Ultimately we were faced with a decision. If Daisy hadn’t got enough strength or ability to feed from Mum, then we would put her down at the end of day three. I feared she had possible brain damage from a long and arduous birth. It was an awful decision to make, but we knew we had to involve the kids with our thought process before putting her down.
Day three dawned and we wanted to see if Daisy would get hungry enough to attempt to feed from Mum. Whilst we never actually saw her move, it became apparent she was able to move from the sun to the shade. Our neighbour gave us regular updates on her movements as our family was all in town during the day. It was an extremely positive step, and it looked Daisy was through the greatest hurdle.
Day four and we opened up the yard into the small paddock. Daisy was spotted at different places during the day, and I even caught her on her feet. I was overjoyed, and whilst Daisy didn’t mind a celebratory selfie, Mum was still very protective despite my attempts to distract her with some fresh hay.
And then I saw it. Just before heading into work at the end of day four, success. Daisy was on her feet feeding from Mum. It was a great sight. Whilst we are by no means out of the woods yet, and I suspect we may have ongoing issues with Daisy and Mum into the future, it was an extremely positive sign. Hopefully we will be able to return Daisy and Mum to the herd in the next few days – although I have one young man who hopes Daisy remembers him. That, I am sure, will be a whole other chapter in the history of life on The Rock Farm!