Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Inadvertant Experiment Results
March 9, 2003

The weather in this neck of the woods continues to be pretty darned cold. The weather prognosticators have a way of dangling the proverbial carrot in front of us, promising milder conditions just around the corner. We just can't ever seem to get by the corner.

Yesterday morning the temperature hovered near the zero degree mark. Newborn calves need to be in a barn or they don't survive. We are getting some pretty big runs these days, so when it is bitter cold have the cows as close to the calving barns as possible. Our strategy is to try to see them when they start to calve, and put them in an individual 8' x 10' box stall at this time. Then the calf can be born in relative comfort, and at least be out of the wind.

When I went out after breakfast, at a quick glance there were three cows with their tails out ready to drop new ones. One cow had the front feet and head out clear to the neck. I went after her first, knowing she would dump out the calf real soon, and it is easier for her to "carry" the calf into the barn than for me to drag it in later. As she stood up, there was a big "sack" enclosing the head and feet of the calf. She was gentle, and as she stood up, I grabbed my jack-knife and broke open the amniotic sack. Lots of times a calf born with this around them suffocates if the cow doesn't get it licked away in time. When the sack broke away the calf batted his eyes and took several big gasps of air, looking like a mounted trophy hanging from a hairy wall with a big cow's tail over his face. I maneuvered the cow on into the barn and got her into a box stall. By this time the calf had backed up clear out of sight, without even the tips of his toes showing.

I went out in the corral and got in the other two cows. Probably another fifteen minutes had elapsed, and the first cow still had nothing yet in sight, as she hadn't settled back down to having contractions again. Having quite a few miles to go with my hay feeding tractor, I left the cows in destiny's hands, knowing my wife would soon be along to look in on the situation. The cow delivered a nice "alive" calf a while later. The inadvertant experiment was that the calf had sure gulped in several big breaths of oxygen and then went back into his dark, airless, warm enclosure for another thirty minutes. I guess as long as the umbilical chord remained intact, this sort of a deal will work.

Speaking of umbilical chords reminds me of a Herb Mignery cartoon from many years ago. The picture was of a fairly fat cowboy, who had roped a steer, with the lariat stretched tight between the critter and his saddle horn. The fellow was so large that very little of the saddle was visible. A couple of his buddies were propped up against a fence. As they watched the action, one of them remarked to the other, "Looks like old Joe is roping with his umbilical chord."







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