We couldn’t lift her that day, as her condition was too delicate and her temp too low for us to uncover her. Somehow she hung on during that miserable day, and we called Edgefield and cancelled our getaway. There was no way we were going to be able to leave that weekend. Her appetite returned a little at a time, and she eventually drank her then cold molasses tea. We didn’t dare get our hopes up again. Now that the inclement weather had returned, lifting her up became a nightmare all over again. We were slipping around in sticky clay, our feet caked in the stuff, our coats soaked through by the sudden bouts of pissing rain. The truck created deep ruts in the red soil and started spinning out. It became ever clearer that we needed to find a way to keep her sheltered and get her away from the mud. The old barn where most of our critters find refuge was far too small to house the ‘monstrosity’ if she went down and needed lifting. We finally settled on clearing out the area in a workshop where our hay is usually stored and setting up camp for her there.
It was my birthday, and we had struggled and fought to lift Mama to her feet once that morning. I got home from trimming hooves, and decided we may as well get back out in the rain and do something about her, especially since I was already drenched. Once she was up, and the truck was moved out of her way, and sufficiently stuck in the mud, we began walking her to the barn. Something was interfering with the use of her front leg, which we later guessed was a reaction to the antibiotic carrier injected into her neck muscle, which caused her to misstep and nearly fall over every time she went to use her front left. So I leaned over and took hold of her pastern. Nick held a bucket of grain, and her halter and coaxed her forward, and I guided and supported her malfunctioning foot. we got her halfway to the barn when she tripped and laid down, thankfully under the shelter of a cedar tree and on well drained soil. We put a horse blanket over her, gave her lunch and took a break.
That night we carried the monstrosity across the field toward the cow. We lifted her one last time in the rain, and precariously walked her to the ‘stall’ we had prepared for her. It was so good to see her inside, dry and comfortable. Our delivery of alfalfa, scheduled for that day was postponed by the hay company, which bought us time to clear our a another space in the barn for it. We later moved the lifting contraption into the barn, but ended up only needing to use it one more time (woo hoo!). Once she was in the barn, Mama seemed to have a new desire to fight. She started getting up with just a little prodding and steadying by Nicholas and myself. We took turns for who got to hold the halter, and who had to hang onto her manure plastered tail. A few days later, she stood up on her own for the second time since this all began, and she hasn’t looked back since. Every time we walked into the barn she would stand to greet us, and we would reward her with an extra half-flake of alfalfa. Her condition improved steadily, she put weight on slowly, and she started to feel good enough to be a sassy, crotchety old lady again. We had nice weather during the day for a week, which allowed us to kick her outside to wander around the yard and graze. We are so relieved and thankful to have had her pull through. Though we own the fact that the poor animal suffered by our own failings and inexperience, there is still a sense of accomplishment in bringing her back from there, and in eventually getting her fat and healthy.
The Farm Lessons:
Feed your livestock the best you can possibly afford, because if you take care of your livestock, they will take care of you.
If you can’t afford to feed them enough, sell or give away as many as you need to in order to feed them well.
Check your livestock for parasites; if their membranes are pale, or fecal test results come back positive, deworm on a schedule, and stick to it.
Alternative livestock and pasture management is a great goal, but until it is mastered, traditional livestock management is a worthy starting point.
Change feed gradually enough to prevent stress, but when you realize that you’ve been doing it all wrong, make it happen no matter what.
Keep a very well stocked farm-centric first aid kit.
Take action quickly and do the work up front when your livestock’s health is on the line.
Straw can save lives.
B Vitamines, CMPK, Subcutaneous fluids, dousing with warm molasses water, rectal thermometers and penicillin are all things you should become familiar with.
Most important, to me at least, having someone to share your stress, work, and triumph with is a good, good thing.