“How’s it going out there?”

Yesterday I left Doug to it, as I headed off for a day of skiing with my daughters and their school. At 6 p.m., when we drove in the yard and asked “How’s it going out there?” we found that Doug and our other daughter had just helped calve a calf that was backwards. They had four other calves in the day. Things had been quite pleasant with the sun shining and all going well, so Doug sent our hired man home early and Grandpa went out to dinner. At 8 pm Doug went out to check the cows again and I turned into bed early. (I was real tired sometimes we go to bed then get up again at 11:00 pm for the last check. This was the case for me last night.) On his check he found there was one more new calf out in the cow pen, looking like it was close to standing. He came back in and went out at 9 pm to see if the new calf was up. It was fine, but he found a cow with two back feet sticking out. This means the calf is backwards and has to be helped out. In a normal presentation, the face of the calf emerges before its umbilical cord breaks, it can take its first breath and all is good. But with a backwards calf, its umbilical cord breaks and its face is still in the womb. If the birth is not fast enough then it can be deprived of oxygen, and suffocate. So to prevent that, the rancher needs to assist and get the calfs face out quickly. If you’ve ever chased a pregnant cow, who really thinks she should calve right where she is, you might chuckle at the thought of a tired rancher wearing insulated coveralls and muck boots, running through eight inches of crusted snow in the dark! As I peacefully rested, he finally won the battle, getting the ole’ girl into the maternity pen and pulled the 2nd backwards calf of the evening. The minute the calf was out of her, that ole’ #567 ran Doug out of the pen saying, “I got this from here Sonny! Leave us alone!” He stomped into the house and work me up getting a bucket of water. In my sleepy stupor, I asked, “How’s it going out there?” He told me he pulled a backwards calf and was just cleaning up. Back to sleep I went, thinking we were good for the night, what more could go on? But at 10:30 pm when Doug walked out to retrieve the Gator (ATV) from out of the field where he had left it when his ‘fight’ with #567 started, he thought he should have one more quick look at the cows. At 11:30 pm I was awoken by the door slamming again and Doug stomping into the house. I asked, “How’s it going out there?” He said, “I just pulled a backwards calf and am cleaning up! I retorted with, “I know you pulled a backwards calf you told me that an hour ago!” It was like DejaVu! But, that was the THIRD backwards calf of the evening!! Very strange! At this point I felt very guilty for going to bed! Doug did finally join me at midnight, after he took one more quick walk out to get the Gator and one more quick look at the cows. Thankfully, all was quiet!
~Erika Fossen~
Here is a diagram of how a backwards calf looks:
Thoughts of days like this pull us through the long, snowy days of calving!


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