Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pulling calves

Kris and my dad went out in the pasture this morning and saw two cows in the process of having calves. Kris said that even though it's nearly impossible and almost never works, he snuck up behind one of them and put chains on the calf's feet. He was able to pull it out without much of a problem. (The chains are made to pull calves. It's a specially-designed chain that loops around their feet and has a triangle handle so you can pull on them.) I well remember a time from when I was young and my dad was holding onto it as a cow was running away. He held on as best he could for as long as he could ... it looked like he was water skiing.

The other cow was right next to it, so they slipped the chains on that calf's feet. It was a bigger calf, and whenever they pulled, she backed up. This obviously wasn't helping, so they got her to lie down. Once she was on the ground they were able to pull out the calf. It was pretty big, and they were fine.

Kris and dad did a lap to collect the rest of the calves in the pasture and saw another cow giving birth - with one foot sticking out, backward. They put the chains on again, but she kept running away. They walked her into the barn so they could put her in a freestall.

They were able to pull the second leg out, but since they knew it was backward, they got the calf puller. The calf puller is a winch that braces against the cow's back legs. It has a long metal bar with a winch and a cable. You pull until it's tight, then you push down for more leverage, then tighten it and pull some more.

She laid down and they were pulling ... and the cable broke. It whacked Kris in the shin (and left a big lump, actually.) Dad retied it, and when they pulled it broke in another spot. That was the end of the calf puller.

They got the regular chains. Dad sat on the ground and braced his legs against the cow's legs, and he and Kris were able to pull it out with all their strength. It breathed a few times, but then died. The cow (it was her first calf) was pretty spent, and they gave her a steroid to help her recover. Often when they go through a difficult birth like that it affects a leg. She has been up walking but has also fallen down. They're keeping her in the barn a few days until she's recovered.

Kris said it's always sad. Yet if you feel like you did everything you could do, you just have to accept that not every birth goes perfectly.

So with the negative comes the positive. She'll recover, she'll give milk, and she'll try again next year.

Kris and dad are pulling calves, and they're pulling for them.


Stacey Hansen said...

Your dad and Kris are two tough dudes for sure!!

Carla said...

Haha! I'll tell them you said that, Stacey! (If I can find them between births. : )