Calving season is tough on cows, calves, ranchers, and veterinarians. Most of the time it goes well–the cow goes into labor, delivers a calf on her own, and we feel all joyful. Every once in a while a cow will need help delivering her calf. This is why ranchers spend so many sleepless nights; checking on their cows every three to four hours to make sure they are progressing correctly. If there is a problem, often the rancher can help the cow deliver her calf on his own.
But if it were always that simple I wouldn’t have a job, right? So I get the privilege of taking part in the most difficult bovine deliveries. After experiencing a few of these, there are certain conditions that make me feel less hopeful for delivering a life calf.
1) She (the cow) has been in labor a several hours
2) She hasn’t made much progress
3) She is very upset at the entire human species and would like to gore us all into little people bits
Last week I had a vet call that fit all three of these conditions. The rancher had noticed her starting to calve that morning. He checked on her again at noon and she hadn’t made any progress, so he went to give her a hand. Unfortunately, this cow decided cooperation was her not her style that day. She took off like a bat out of Hades for the farthest regions of the pasture. After going over fences and through the woods, he was finally able to corral her and bring her into the clinic.
When I started to work on her, the rancher and I both had low expectations. I found the calf was coming rump first and had both feet back. I manipulated the feet to get them pointed out the birth canal. The whole time the calf never moved, so I assumed it was dead.
I pulled and the calf came out. Much to both of our surprises, it was alive and well! It was a big, healthy bull calf. I made sure it was breathing good and started to dry him off. The rancher was giddy that this calf made it. It was fun to see a 60 year old man giggling about a new calf.
I went in to check the cow’s uterus to make sure it was in good shape. As I reached in, I chuckled. The rancher looked up at me. I said, “You’re never going to believe this, but there’s another one in here!”. I pulled that calf out and delivered a bright and healthy heifer calf. If you’ve ever seen a look of joy before, it was written all over that rancher’s face. He went into this thinking he would have a dead calf and ended up having live twins.
Not every story from calving ends well. However, the ones that do make the job totally worth it. Check out the video of them!