Saturday, May 07, 2011

Learning Curve

Wow, what a week! Sir Loin is... 9 days old? He's had a hard time for a good portion of those.

Somewhere around day 4 I think, he changed. He had a smear of poo on his backside/tail, the barn smelled a little pungent, in a different way, and he stopped wagging his tail when he ate.

Then he refused his dinner, the next day he refused his midday feeding. I read and read and googled and read some more. Did he have scours? Something seemed off, but he wasn't *completely* lethargic. He was still eating at least sometimes, and wasn't "pooping water" as one message board read.

This is where book learnin' just can't hold a candle to experience. I just DIDN'T KNOW what should or shouldn't be for such a critter. He wasn't old enough to be dealing with parasites of any kind, he probably has the cleanest, driest, warmest little barn in the state, was enjoying THREE (smaller) meals each day instead of the standard two, had a heat lamp, etc. etc.

I added an egg to his bottle Thursday night, based on Big Sister's recommendation from a mennonite story book (later she told me that calf died), and after I'd seen a similar practice mentioned online (yes, I have high standards by which I base my decisions. ahem). Friday I had an epiphany: I called my neighbor (which I'd done a time or two, but he's a busy farmer) and asked if I could stop by and look at his calves... and their poop. :)

Yes, another rung on the ladder of success that Gi-Gi can mention in her holiday newsletters. *sigh* Sure, her great-niece is the head pharmacist at a local NICU, but *I* compare bovine manure.

My neighbor said that would be fine, so at the end of some brief errands, we stopped by his place. We went into the calf barn, and he pointed to the first, smallest calf, and told me "that one's sick." I peered into his pen and was surprised to see a rainbow of pretty colors - even MINTY-GREEN poop, which mine did not have (ours was more mustard-yellow, though we witnessed some lighter yellow mixed with much water later that day). Minty-green is only after they've been medicated with something however. The other poop in the sick one's pen was quite familiar. I talked for some time with my neighbor, inspected healthy calf-poop, talked about genetics, and stood surprised at the "embryo flushing" he employed to get 3 or 4 calves from the same cow this year (re-implanted in 'surrogate' cows! All on his little bachelor-run dairy!). He gave me a handful of big white pills, and dug around to unearth a tool for giving such pills (and I do mean dug around. His dairy farm is as cluttered with old farm-stuffs as any old bachelor's might be. :) ).

I returned home and tried to give a bottle of homemade electrolyte solution to the calf, but he wouldn't have it (Neighbor affirmed the idea of giving an egg too, so that was included). We witnessed some live-poo (as opposed to finding it in the straw) that was more watery than I'd thought, so without a better option, gave him one of the pills (sulfa, apparently). He took his bottle of electrolytes at evening.

Saturday morning was an early one for me, having Little Artist's 7th birthday party to prepare for, in addition to the other spring chores. :) I made another electrolyte bottle, dissolving another pill in it, and took it out to Sir Loin. I was surprised at how quickly he got to his feet, and how eager he was to eat again! His tail even wagged a bit, and his bunting (is that what you call it? The violent head-butt into the bottle/udder?) was much more forceful again. What a difference. He sucked down the bottle and commenced nosing under my apron in search of an udder I suppose. No luck. :) Midday he happily took a half-dose of milk replacer, and tonight (saturday night) he took a full bottle (and a pill). He even sucked on the corner of my rain jacket, and tried to escape. He's OBVIOUSLY feeling better, though I don't know if his manure has caught up (earlier I saw stuff that was still too loose. Nothing found this evening). I don't know if I need to give him the last of the pills (I have 3 more) or if he is fully better, or what caused it in the first place. There is definitely a learning curve, and I'm glad I have a 'practice' critter. :)


Fatima said...

That is a really common problem with bottle fed calves. I'd finish out the meds.
Hope you are having fun with your new baby. :)

EllaJac said...

Thanks Fatima! He IS fun most of the time. Though I must admit there was a frustrating point where he hit that threshold where I think, "yep, I could grill you." :D

Next up; learning to use a calf halter! :P THAT has been interesting, so far...!