Life in the Slow Lane: Sadness

Saturday evening, June gave me the spotted heifer I wanted so much. My first inkling that all was not going to go well was when I saw Little Iris's hooves appear. Usually, calf hooves are aligned, hoof to hoof, knee to knee. Iris's first hoof appeared by itself, and her second hoof appeared near the knee of her extended leg. More importantly, her hooves were way too large for a newborn calf. June, it seems, was indeed overdue. The cost of holding onto her calf for so long was a big baby.

This alignment suggested the baby's shoulder was caught in the birth canal. I worked with June until we got the baby turned and straightened. By then I could see Iris's nose. Her nose was as out-sized as her hooves. June gave a great big heave-ho and pushed out a calf who was as long and taller than Bear. Mama crooned to her new baby as she licked her clean (helped by Moosie, of course). I watched as part of the placenta appeared, then dropped. Despite a few small tears, everything looked positive, so I crossed my fingers, knowing the next hours were crucial.

Then Iris found her feet and I realized June had given birth to a calf that was too tall to reach her mother's teats. Of course by now June's udder was beyond swollen. But nature has a way of taking care of these issues and either Iris would figure out she needed to kneel, or I'd help her to learn how to kneel.

Saturday night was spent keeping an eye on the girls. June took almost ten gallons of warm apple cider vinegar water and Sunday morning they both looked good, except Iris wasn't yet on her mother. That was still okay. Calves have 24 hours of reserves in them and I kept a close watch, waiting for it to come together.

Then at 10 am, June went down with Milk Fever. Treatments were given, including a Calcium Glucanate IV, and hope rebounded when June got back on her feet. However, as the vet watched her walk, he identified nerve damage in June's left leg, no doubt caused by giving birth to what was essentially a three-week-old calf. By then Iris was really needing her mother's colostrum. That left me no choice but to milk June a little and fill a bottle, even though I knew this might exacerbate her Milk Fever.

That's when I discovered the mastitis. Whether this was caused by June sitting for too long on her swollen udder or it was a chronic problem she brought with her is anyone's guess. But it was the moment that I knew this wasn't going to end well. Although June fought hard, mastitis, nerve damage, Milk Fever and the possibility of internal injuries was more than she could handle. She died Tuesday morning. By Tuesday evening, little Iris was at Tres Hermanas Ranch where they have a nurse cow named Sugar, who'll take on a pretty little orphan.

I'm grateful that June came into my life, with her crazy games and her dancing, and I thank her for producing the prettiest calf I've ever seen. But now it's time me to reevaluate where I am here on the farm and what comes next.

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