Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Full Swing

Well folks, my apologies for not writing more often.  I don't know if I'm just getting old, or if we are busier than ever before.  Record amounts of calves being born in very short periods of time and run, run, run.....
I started this post quite some time ago and have spend a few moments here and there.....it's a bit confusing probably.  But then I thought to myself that the confusion might help you understand just how hectic things can become!  And I want to point out that pretty much every shift has it's adventures (certainly this year!); the only difference is that I'm sharing one of mine to the blog community, instead of just around morning coffee!

The cows are on night shift.  Beautiful warm sunny days....but no, calving at night in a snowstorm is apparently a better option.  
But it's okay.  If we have to be up in the middle of the night, might as well be busy.  
Last night was busy.
I got up at 3 and read the note from the last check.  Two new calves in.

(Just to be clear, we usually check every two hours or so.  If nothing is going on, back to bed.  Or, sometimes your shift will run in to the next persons.....)

As I walked out to the pens I could hear the tell-tale lowing sound from the heifer pen, meaning a momma was giving some love to a new baby, who had already made it to the outside world.  Which means the bike and sleigh were going to come in to play to get them out of the pen and into a nice dry barn stall.

 I quickly walked through the rest of the heifer pen and noted another young cow (Y215) calving.  And in the cow pens, another one.

 The first priority is to get the new baby out of the way, so after letting his momma clean him off good, I loaded him in the sleigh and took them to the barn.  As I did, a little red 1st calf heifer (A305) shot past me and ran down the alleyway.  They often do this as they are assuming they can escape....to the feed pen.  I snarled my annoyance at her, and after settling new momma and baby in a barn stall, I went back to retrieve her.  When my brain registered the kinked tail and humped up walk, I realized she was calving too!  Another barn pen filled.  

Back to the heifer pen and convinced Y215 to come to the barn.  As she walked past me, I cut the 'calf sack' and was surprised to see the amniotic fluid was very yellow.  Generally this is a sign of stress for the calf (often too long in the birthing process, for whatever reason).  The cow certainly did not seem stressed and cannot have been too long yet as the sack was intact and the last check wasn't too long before hand.  But something was going on. 

I headed back out and retrieved the next momma-to-be (V856) from the cow pen.  When I had everyone settled, I checked back with Y215 and a two feet were showing, so all seemed well.  A half hour later I came back out, and she had a wee baby laying by her side.  Perfect.  
The other cows were also progressing, so I left the barn again.  (We are always very careful to watch the first calvers, if any need help, it is generally them.)

In the next half hour, the first baby I had retrieved was enjoying his breakfast, tail delightedly wagging.  V856 calved,  A305 calved and Y215 delivered #2.  Tiny twins!  Huh, no wonder there were signs of stress.  But both babies were healthy and happy.

I headed back out for one more cruise through the pens and another of the cows (WIN) decided to calve in the worst possible spot, in the only place she could managed to push it out into the snow.  Not only that, but the calf was upside down under a fence and momma was cranky.  So I went back for the bike and trailer and an equalizer.  We have plastic 'paddles' that we use.  They are basically a long stick with a big hollow rectangular plastic end.  They make excellent tools for sorting, like an extension of your own arm.  You could also wack your buddy as hard as you wanted with it, without hurting them a bit, but it makes quite a noise.  I put the quad and trailer in position, climbed the fence that the calf was underneath, hooked a leg and double handed the overly protective mother with the equalizer as hard as I could.  "WHAP!"  She stood back in surprise, reevaluated the situation and then patiently waited for me to drag her calf out of the snow, load it into the sleigh and then followed me to the barn with it.  It's not a real good feeling to be all alone in the night with a cranky cow and I was happy this one cooperated as well as she did.  

All in all, a successful shift.            

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