Thursday, February 7, 2013
Ooma & Poohma
Monday we passed by the barn on our way out to harvest fire wood. Ooma was agitated (ears back, tail swishing), sniffing a wet spot, and turning in circles looking at her own bum. When we came back by about 2 hours later, there was a wet, cold calf laying in the wet straw. Ooma was licking her like a good mama, softly mooing and gently keeping us away with her horns. She let Miguel get close enough to figure out that baby cow couldn't stand up and her belly seemed empty.
We took the load of firewood up to the house, tied up the dogs, and headed back to the barn with hopeful determination, and a bottle. Alternating as one of us milked and the other distracted Ooma with hay, we squeezed her teets until the bottle was half full of warm, thick colostrum. Mama was observing by now that we were friends in her effort and allowed Miguel to shove the big red nipple in baby's mouth. She sucked! Oh good, she's got a strong suck! We got a full bottle in her belly (2 quarts), dragged her to the more protected corner of the barn, and surrounded her with clean, dry straw. It was a cold, cold February day without any sunshine to speak of. (ominous music...)
I took off to town for the first night of a bible study I'd seen offered in the paper. When I arrived home about 9pm, Miguel had much to report. He had gone to check on Poohma about 6:30 and she was cold, shivering, and still could not stand (which meant she was not nursing). He drove the old farm truck up close to the barn and turned the heat on full blast. He somehow carried little limp noodle Poohma over to the truck and stuck her on the front seat to warm up. (If 60 lbs can be called little.) Good mama cow let him milk more colostrum out, but sweet little baby cow had lost her suck. He sat with her in the truck for about an hour, then shut it down and returned her to the barn.
We went back out around 10:30 pm to check on her. Captain, our bull, and Beauty the oldest cow, were laying as close to her as possible without actually laying on her. Ooma was there to, standing guard. They were doing the best they could on a cold winter night with a weak calf.
We laid a blanket, warm from the wood stove, out next to Poohma and rolled her onto it. Before she struggled off, we lifted her up hammock style and carried her back to the warm truck. Miguel went out again about 3:30 am, started the truck, got her warm, and got her to take a few sips of the re-warmed first milk.
First thing in the morning we walked together to the barn. It was hard to know what to do. She did not seem any better, but did not really seem worse either. Due to her labored breathing it seemed safe to assume that she had 'pneumonia'. Also miguel's life experience, (that's what calves get, that's what kills them). It was decided that we would take the cows up to the milk house where I could start milking, while Miguel went back to work with the little one.
I was finishing up my 2nd cow when he returned, frustrated. She wouldn't drink, but she seemed to have enough energy to resist the bottle. After milking chores were done we moved her from the truck to be with her mom in the barn. It was still cold, in the low 20's, without much sun to speak of. Ooma gave her the best mama licking, all over her sweet, brown body. I stayed with them while miguel went back to the house to finish chores (feed the big calves & the lambs, strain the keifer, stoke the fires). Little Poohma still could not stand on her own. She tried to stand, and could get up on her front 'knees' with her bum in the air, back legs nice and straight. But it was as if her front legs had been fashioned too long and she just was not able to get them under her body. When I helped her up she could stand, but any wrong move and she collapsed to the ground, limp and helpless. She took a little from the bottle, but not enough to ease concerns.
When I got back to the house, Miguel was just finishing up a batch of butter. I wrapped it up (9 one lb lumps) while he returned to the barn. He found her shivering again and moved her right back to the warm truck. Next time we met up, the idea had finally come to both of us to give her something, anything we had. He had remembered the Rescue Remedy and the Colloidal Silver, while in my mind I had created a crushed garlic, honey, butter recipe. We agreed to try it all. So after mixing the 3 ingredients and grabbing the two bottles, I headed back out to the truck.
Oh her breathing was labored and she was weak, which made spooning the honey mixture into her nose & mouth very easy. Poor thing was trembling and her tongue was dry when she tried to lick the honey off her nose. Now I knew that the trembling was not really shivering. She may be cold, but her body was shaking from the effort to stay alive. The garlic was so spicy that tears fell from her eyes. Precious fluid I knew she could not spare. The Rescue Remedy fell nicely in her nose and before long she was fast asleep. I got a few good spoon fulls of the butter mix right on her tongue to dissolve, then poured some Silver in her nose. When she did not flinch from that, I figured she was out for awhile, to get some much needed rest.
Returning to the house I shared the idea that keeping her warm was important, but she was terribly dehydrated and needed something. Miguel agreed and called Linda right away. She and Bob had planned to visit us the next day anyway for cheese and butter. So I took off with 2 lbs of butter and a pound of cheese. Linda laughed and said the rental fee for the bag was $0. I drove the 4 miles back to our farm with a paper back copy of "Nathan Coulter" by Wendell Berry (which both Miguel and I had been wanting to read), $30 cash, and a bag to save Poohma's life.
We met in the basement, made a plan, gathered supplies, and headed out. It was about 3:30 pm, just 24 hours had passed since Ooma had given birth to her sweet baby. We unloaded Poohma from her warm truck and hid our supplies in the cab. (The cows had been keeping watch around the truck and they can be curious, destructive creatures sometimes.) Ooma was happy to see her girl and commenced to licking her furiously, mooing softly the whole time. When we returned to the barn from fetching the supplies, little sweet girl was standing up! We double checked each other and agreed yes, we had left her lying on the straw. So we felt very encouraged that she had stood by herself for the first time. Good mama let me milk out 2 quarts of steaming colostrum. We primed the bag, put butter along the rigid tube, and Miguel straddled Pooma. He somehow shoved that horrible tube down her little throat and I blocked her hind legs with my body while holding the bag above our heads and un-clamped the tube to start the flow. It flowed! The whole bag emptied into her stomach in about 45 seconds, as she resisted and we struggled to keep her still. Poor thing. How could she know we were trying to help her? Thank you Ooma for allowing us to attack your baby like that. I can only assume she knew we were all partners, laboring for the same life.
Poohma continued to stand on her own after the tube was removed. We spread clean, dry straw in the barn, and she was still standing. We walked back to the house, and she was still standing. Good girl. Miguel went out that evening and once during the night. She drank from the bottle during the night and stayed out of that truck, in the barn with her herd. The next day he helped her find the teets as Ooma stood patiently.
We are checking on her less frequently now, and the temperature has finally risen above 30 d, with some beautiful sunshine yesterday and today. We are cautiously calling her a save and thanking the gorgeous universe.
Welcome home to the farm Poohma.