Tia almost dies

dsc_0543 dsc_0541

Tia (my beautiful little heifer) was laid flat out on the ground, in the yards by the hay feeder, snow falling on her face. I threw the hay into the hay car to distract the others and walked swiftly to her side. The one eye I could see was wide with fright, she was on her side,  her legs stretched out stiff, jerking and kicking.  She was in big trouble. I searched her for wounds but nothing. Her belly was not hard and distended. So no bloat.  But she was down and in some very real pain.

I felt her nose, she was getting cold and we were outside in biting wind. First I had to warm her up. With considerable difficulty because of her kicking legs  I rolled her over and got all four legs under her then heaved. She has grown into a big girl and she fought me. But her nose was feeling plasticky and her eyes going foggy and pale.

You know that feeling when your heart literally falls.  It is a physical thud.  I am a farmer, I work with animals all the time, we have to pick up that feeling of panic and place it away from us. And focus hard.

I lost my grip, she flung herself back onto her side, legs pistoning. But animals die lying down like  that I would not have her dying. She had to get upright.

She was having spasms of pain and kept stretching her legs out – almost rolling onto her back, kicking out. Boo waited beside me. Ton lay a ways off. Sheila paced from her house to the field, back and forth, black and forth grunting as I heaved and heaved and tried to get Tia onto her stomach. Once again I got her rolled over with all her legs under her, and was pushing hard to keep her upright, she seemed to quieten a little but still would not get up onto her feet. I stood up, supporting her with my leg and looked at her, thinking, then looked at Boo. Boo stood completely at attention. Waiting. Ok. I said, Quietly. Bring her up, Boo. He pounced and nipped her on the back leg, then darted back out of reach. She startled and up she rushed, right up onto her feet in fright, I caught her and steadied her.  She was shaking but standing then we were walking towards the open door in the barn. But both back legs were taking turns at kicking at her belly, she was off kilter, she kept lurching sideways,  or sinking to the ground. Her legs up and at her belly. Boo stuck close behind her so she kept walking.  She was in pain, bad pain. We had to get her out of the cold. Our progress was slow. Boo and I kept her walking back up to the barn, her whole rear end was wobbling off course. Ii had to steer her. In the end I was holding her up, the calf leaning on me as she walked,  trying to kick at the pain, oblivious to all else except Boo bringing up the rear. We got her all the way to the barn and into the Sick bay.

She fell to the floor of the sick bay. I got her to stand again. She lost a lot of her panic when she was standing against the wall me beside her using my body to keep her there, all the while stroking and talking. I called John on the phone and asked him to go to the other barn and bring me two bales of straw, then I called the Vet. He was free after his next appointment, then he would be on his way.  I said, Thank you, thank you so very much.  Thanks Gods.

Tia kicked so hard at her own belly that she fell again but I caught her this time and was able to ease her down the wall so she lay on her haunches.  Then I sat against her – keeping her head up.  Talking and stroking with big Mama cow strokes just like we do every day. She leaned on me with all her weight, and her breathing slowed and her head lowed down to tuck into her side. The pain was killing her. No, I said and Boo tucked closer in. No, I said , bring your head up. No dying.

John bought the straw, finished the rest of the chores then took Boo inside so he could not cause a ruckus when the vet arrived. Tia and I sat quietly together for a long while. Occasionally she would stand up and throw herself about the sick bay pen, then she would collapse again, she began to moan with each breath. getting weaker.

I went down into a waiting zone. All that could be done was done. The calf and I calmed and calmed and waited. The vet arrived in good time. He examined her,  and said that she must have twisted an intestine or a blockage of some kind.  He took her temperature, it was low, below what it should be.  If it were a twisted intestine she would need an operation. There was a chance we could drive her to the University but it was almost two hours away, she would not make it and they might not have the staff to operate immediately.  But it was too cold. The wind howled outside. And her body temperature was already dropping. She would die in the trailer,  alone, in the dark, frightened and cold and in pain  as we drove through the night. This would not be acceptable.

Let’s treat her for the blockage I decided.  There was a 50/ 50 chance that this was the problem. Though there was no good reason for me to believe this other than optimism. The vet nodded. It was my call. He went to his truck brought back two syringes and a large bag of mineral oil with a tube.

Tia had slipped further down into her pain and barely moved now, her head no longer supporting itself.

I think she is dying, I told him quietly, stroking her neck.

She might be, he said.

He gave her two shots, one for the pain and one a steroid to help with inflammation. We secured her, (she had already kicked the Vet in the face during a spasm) then he put the tube down her throat, I held the bag up high and we poured a lot of mineral oil down her throat. Afterwards, she lay all the way down stretching her legs out, she kicked sadly, then she arched her neck long, all the way back up, barely breathing, eyes rolling, while he listened for stomach sounds with his stethoscope. .

Both of us talked and stroked our hands from her throat to her tail.

He wanted to stand her up but she was not able to.

Hi listened again. Hmm. She sounds a little better, he said. He pulled up the lid of her eye, colour is  good. We rolled and tucked and pushed her up into a sitting position. She had gone very quiet.  I held her in place with my leg. Then we waited. Talking softly, ignoring the time.

After a wee while she lifted her head, after another while her ears came up and she started to look about. Then soon after that she adjusted her body, tucked  her feet further under her belly and reached for some hay.


The Vet and I looked at each other and smiled. Not out of the woods yet he warned. I nodded and ignored him.  We discussed the difference between being a realist (him)  and being a  pragmatist (me). Though we both like to think the best first, we discussed the implications of this on realism and pragmatism.

He began to gather his tools. He said. Keep her upright. Let me know how she does. Call me if you have any questions, he said. (He always says that).

I said. It’s Friday night.    I am so glad you were able to come.

I looked down realising a lack of pressure.  I was not holding her up anymore, she was holding her own body in place by herself.

I want to take this one right through, I said, maybe train her to be a milk cow. She is quite lovely.

She is a good looking calf, he said.  He was leaning on the barn wall, bag and tube and gloves and stethoscope in his hands. Tia picked her head up and looked straight at him, lazily blinking. Her ears turning from the sound of him to the shuffle of Ton changing sides outside the door. Pain meds, he said. referring to her sleepiness.

She is naturally a gentle calm animal too, I said. Perfect temperament for a milk cow.

He touched his face where she had kicked him and raised his eyebrows.

Hmm, I conceded.  Tia reached for another tiny piece of hay.  The Vet and I exchanged a satisfied look and nodded to each other. Eating is the best sign.

After the Vet left I placed one bale of straw behind her back then broke the second bale and covered her deeply so she would warm up again.  It was late and there was no light by then, she was just a sleeping dark blob in the straw.

Within an hour she was standing up. Alert again and calm, no kicking at her own belly trying to knock out the pain.

After another hour she was chewing and thinking about nothing much as though nothing much had ever happened.

She stayed resting in the Sick Bay and I checked her until late in the night.  By eleven she was sitting chewing her cud listening to Sheila snore from through the wall.  It appeared that there really had been a blockage and that the oil had moved it through.

I will check her again in a few minutes and let you know in the Lounge of Comments how she is doing.

I hope you have a lovely day.



146 Comments on “Tia almost dies

  1. Oh I had to stop reading at one point, I couldn’t sit still. After a walk about the kitchen I came back and finished. I don’t know how you do it in these situations I was panicking reading it. The thought of an animal in pain unable to communicate is so tough. I always say my dream job would to have a farm like yours (it used to be a vet, I got to be a biologist with a lot of debt so I gave up on vet school), but I don’t think I could do it. I hope Tia is ok now and the mineral oil cleared whatever was happening. Poor vet, a kick in the face!

    • Yes she is fine this morning, I have left her in her small pen for the morning because she looks a trifle unsteady still – she had quite an ordeal. but she is eating with gusto – that is a good sign.. c

      • Thank the cow Gods! It must have been pretty traumatic and draining for the poor little cow. A good vet is a treasure for sure.

  2. Oh my goodness. Tia! Move that blockage along girl. So glad your vet was able to come – and stay quite a while by the sound of it. Good luck Celi and Tia!

    • Whatever it was seems to have moved down – she was so lucky that our favourite vet as on duty.. actually we have two favourites n that practise but it was 4.30 on a friday – incredible luck really c

  3. Oh my goodness..I must stop crying!  Poor you and even more poor Tia  and poot Vet who got kicked!!!   Oh my goodness …what a terrible thing to happen. If it was a blockage , as you say…what caused it and will it happen again…

    I am so happy that it turned out alright and Boo did his bit with a nip but you must have been distraught …my love flies to you to give you strength

    Oh dear! oh dear..my giddy aunt….a miracle occurred..now I must dry my tears…lots of love


    Sent: Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 3:03 PM

  4. Tia sure shook us all out of our complacency, hope she keeps improving today enough for you to relax a little. Laura

  5. Oh my god Celi! Was this what they call colic? My daughter in law has horses and has had to deal with nights like you just had. You are a fighter for your animals, and so courageous. Thank god the vet was available! Do you keep tubing and mineral oil handy in case of situations like this? This is why I am more comfortable growing my veggies. I confess that I’m quite a coward. I keep thinking, what if this had happened when you were away? Would John know what to do? Hope you get a nap in today and that Tia is ok! What a night!

      • Horses can have impaction colic, parasite colic, sand colic, twisted gut…..different digestive systems between the two animals – but both can go down and die quickly from any kind of colic. You did the right thing by getting her up 😊

  6. What an awful ordeal! So glad she seems to be improving. Do keep us posted and hopefully you can get some rest too.

  7. I know the exact feeling… I’ve gone through it with goats who’ve almost died. The heart sinks, the stomach contracts into knots, and then you focus. Thank goodness you have a good vet who was able to get there in a timely manner and I hope she’s on the mend.

  8. When I was a child, people often said to me that since I loved animals so much, I should be a vet when I grew up, but I always knew I could not. Even when I tried raising goats, geese & chickens, I realized the life & death issues were too difficult for me. I admire your tremendous strength, guts, calm & you tender caring too, Celi. May the Gods indeed bless you & your vet & dear Tia.

  9. It is terrible to watch real pain and suffering on anyone’s face, animal or human. Poor thing. I am so glad she seems better! I hope she stays that way.

  10. So … did lovely Tia present a big, healthy pile of poop or not? Isn’t that what the mineral oil is for? To get things moving in the right direction … through the bowels and out? Nothing like a good poop to make one feel a lot better!!
    It would be a shame to lose her in such a manner … so glad it all worked out for the girl and, of course, for you, as well!!

  11. Thank goodness you found her when you did and knew what to do to keep her alive until the vet could arrive to help you. We have great adrenalin and energy to get us through these animal emergencies ( and human too, sometimes). I wish you all a calmer a d more restful day.

  12. I felt your anguish. What a frightening situation for your and Tia. Fingers crossed she pulls through and the vet recovers from the kick.

  13. your words had me right there.. and when I read that long neck lifting an back.. o we know what that can me.. so so glad that she caught in the nick of time an that treatment worked.. Bless you all!

    • yes – I knew you would pick up that one – it was the terrifying moment – this is why I won’t let them lie down when they are that sick – somehow I think if i don’t allow them the POSTURE of death then maybe it wil not come for them. Awful to see. But things are so much better this morning.. c

      • Very glad that things at much better this morning, had a girlfriend that had a rough colt birth yesterday, thankfully the vet got the baby out in time and we will see. no proper latching yet.. Every birth, every day really, we work so hard and still s many things are possible. hugs and here is hoping for a uneventful day

          • so turns out because of hard birth, baby colt had his neck out of aleinment, (sp?) and so they gave him a single treatment and moved it back into proper placement, and he sighed, had a nap, got up, moved his head and neck into proper placement and drained momma dry.. its a good lesion and one I will do a post on in regards to lambing.. so happy that the chiro treatment got it fixed. thought you would want to know 🙂

  14. Ever so glad that you found her and got the vet. These situations are always bone-chilling. Can’t wait to hear how she is doing today. You are lucky to have a good cow vet in your area.

  15. It is incredible that Tia pulled through. This was so beautifully written. I am so happy that you, the vet and your wisdom was present for such an important occurrence.

  16. Wow! Your sweet Tia. She’s one of my favorites! I’m am SO glad she is altright! I read this with such dread, mixed with hope and admiration. Thank goodness you stayed determined and clear. And your vet – what a star! And I adore your Boo: I just love him so much!! Please let us know how Tia is doing! I scrolled down looking for an update, but it is probably too soon.

    • Yes, I was outside doing the chores. She will stay in the pen for a while longer – she still feels a little weak to me. But she is eating and drinking her water so i think this episode is over.

  17. Holy smokes! Poor Tia and poor you. What a night. Looking forward to a good update. Hugs

  18. If being pragmatic includes fierce determination, I’m OK with your self-label. And whatever else you are, for me you’re an inspiration. When I catch myself taking the many living things around me for granted, I’m going to reread this, or at least picture you wrestling that precious life to its feet and holding.her up and not letting her go. That goes for the persons I love too.

    • Hi Albert. I think we all do this to an extent. Thank goodness for Boo getting her up that first time and then moving her along. Poor calf. She is giving him the stink eye this morning.. c

      • You are right. It’s the communication and cooperation between you and Boo that helped save the day. So this is the picture I’m saving, the three of you together: “Then I sat against her – keeping her head up. Talking and stroking . . . She leaned on me with all her weight, and her breathing slowed and her head lowed down to tuck into her side. . . . No, I said and Boo tucked closer in. No, I said , bring your head up. No dying.”

  19. I’m with you. Pragmatist, through and through. We see what is and look at ways to make it how we want it to be. Not just accepting of how it is. Tia was fortunate that you found her when you did and that a good vet was able to come and help. He needs a catchers face mask to protect him from kicks. Reading this, I felt my blood pressure go up with the anxiety you must have clearly felt. I am so hoping all stays well. Not a good way to end a day or start another. A dying cow is just too heartbreaking. Giant hugs.

  20. When I got to “Thanks Gods” I had to stop reading.
    I am reminded of James Harriot All Creatures Great and Small. His wonderful experiences as a vet.

  21. Such a nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching, wonderful tale; I was there with you every breathe-held inch of the way. Well done Celi, in the doing and the telling: )
    Hope Tia, the Doc and you are all recuperating well!

  22. Oh my, what troubles you have experienced and gone through. So glad, that life has won. Poor wee heifer to suffer so much pain. You are such a great mom to your oh so lovely entourage. Always there and of help… – Have a nice and lovely week end.

  23. How frightening. We have had to deal with colic a few times with our horses — I feel your fear (and exhaustion). We always smile with satisfaction when there is a big pile of manure. I’m glad sweet Tia made it through.

  24. We have a new calf, Else. I so appreciate reading and learning from your experiences- thank you for all the time you put into sharing the details. Comments helpful too- I was glad some asked about the poop! w

  25. My gosh!!! What an afternoon and evening! Poor little Tia. I bet Sheila was quite out of sorts. That vet and your determination did a great job. Sigh of relief and fingers crossed for full recovery. Be well.

  26. Goodness! That was terrifying! All the signs were there…she was dying! You did everything right, from getting her up and making her move and CALLING the vet. Thankfully you still have vets there that work on large animals…we only have one and he is many miles away.

    When we had cows we had a HUGE supply of all things necessary, just like you do, and still there will be something that you need a vet for. Sigh!

    I’m so glad you have a on the mend Tia!


  27. I was so afraid to comment until I saw your replies that Tia is doing much better this morning. So very glad for her and you 🙂

  28. Poor little girl, what a scare for both of you. What a good thing you had your clever Boo with you to get her up the first time. Getting her into Sick Bay, propped up, wamer and after a short walk to get her guts moving again helped to keep her alive till the vet came, and I’m sure that just being there and stroking and talking to her helped and calmed her a little. It would be good to have an update when you can…

  29. So glad your awful night ended well for you and Tia. She is such a pretty little gal. You are right about there being fewer large animal vets. Our niece trained to be one and went into a practice in upper New York, but ended up buying a small animal clinic and no long does large animals, except for her own horses.

  30. Oh C. I had that sick, dull feeling in my stomach reading this, I cannot imagine how you must have been feeling going through this with your darling Tia. But I guess when the adrenaline kicks in, you just do what you have to do and focus hard on the situation. Thank-goodness, she pulled through ( with you and your vet’s tremendous help). I’m so glad….

  31. The poor babe must have been in excruciating pain to have reacted as she did. And the remedy was so simple too, quite amazing to me. What a loyal boy is Boo; he just seemed to know what was necessary and did his job without question. Very good to know all systems are working as needed today, which likely means the recovery will continue. Yes, I expect after that ordeal that she would be rather weak for a day or two and being sheltered in the sick bay is probably just what she needs. Best wishes to you all! ~ Mame 🙂

  32. Thank you for putting “almost” in the title. The heart thumping was only slightly less as I read. So happy she is doing better today. God Bless that vet. Great teamwork from all of you. All hands and paws on deck!!

  33. I’m very late reading today and just about to go out and now I’ll have to pop upstairs and wash my face as this had me in tears of sadness then joy. Fingers crossed for a continued good recovery xx

  34. Poor little thing, I almost didn’t dear to breathe rushing through your words.
    Good to know she is doing a lot better.
    Best wishes! ❤

  35. Wow… that was something…. We’re all so happy she made it through. You – and the vet – did everything right and so you didn’t have to post something this morning that would’ve made all of us cry. As always, thanks for sharing it with us.

  36. holy cow ( no pun intended…) what a miracle that Tia is ok- You, Boo and the Doctor did so wonderfully for Tia. I was so frightened reading your
    words and sad too….happy happy ending thanks to all- John also for being there “Johnny on the spot” with the straw bale. (pun intended)
    May your weekend be calmer.

  37. So pleased to hear that she’s ok!! I’ve known horses to die from this, it’s heartbreaking. Well done you xx

  38. I am on the edge of my seat and like others, holding my breath. Near tears, actually. What more can you tell us about blockage? What kind? What would cause it? Does the cold have anything to do with it? Is this common in cows? How do you avoid it? I am relieved and I hope the news continues to be good…

    • I have not had a cow with this problem but maybe I have been lucky? More common in horses by the sounds of it. But how to avoid it I don’t know. he said it just strikes sometimes and that is it..

  39. I am thinking about your comment Celi that “there is seldom warning”…life is like that. I remind myself of it every day. We sail along not knowing when the next thing will hit us. But it will, surely, hit us one day. I remember my husbands TB, my daughters bone tumor (benign, thank God), my father’s sudden loss of cognitive stability…it all falls from the sky when we don’t see it coming. You breathed through it, kept your head. I am so amazed by your even keel. Not easy.

  40. A good vet is worth their weight in gold. We are fortunate to have several here. Isn’t it amazing how you can set aside the panic and go into a kind of automatic mode? I have lost 3 horses in the past 25 years to colic (simply a term for abdominal distress) despite the heroic efforts of my vet, once at the tail end of a blizzard. All were older and not candidates for surgery even if they could’ve survived the trip. So glad you found her in time. I don’t know about you but after the crisis is passed I feel like a balloon without its air and have to sit down and have a beer.

  41. Ohh thank goodness Tia is on the mend. What an awful time for you.

  42. Poor Tia. From what I’ve read this is the time of year when horses colic more frequently. Maybe cows do too. It’s a good thing you were out there right that minute and got Tia up, bless Boo for the help. There is nothing like having a good vet. We have been with our vet for all the years he’s been in practice, the boys have all loved him and his care and love of animals is very evident and his son is entering the practice as a full fledged vet very soon. I hope all continues to go well and that Tia will feel much better and so will you. Many blessings.

      • From what I’ve read and heard from some of the horse people I know there doesn’t seem to be anything really specific that will trigger colic in horses. I suspect the same would apply to cows, nothing specific to set it off, just happens. It could be the increased amouts of dry fodder, which makes sense, although with cows chewing cud I would think that might make it less likely to cause problems. I’m glad Tia is better, she’s a lovely calf.

  43. I am so glad that this story had a happy ending. A friend of mine (human) had a twisted intestine and he said it was the worst pain he has ever felt! Emergency surgery corrected his issue. Poor little cow, my heart breaks when animals are ill and feel so bad. She is quite fortunate to have such a loving and caring human looking after her.

  44. If it was going to go wrong for Tia, time & place were on her side, the benefits of a smallholding farm… you & Boo happened upon her, the vet was free. A near miss I think but good outcome so far 🐮

  45. Oh yes, thank heavens for vets and your steady pragmatism! But thank heavens for Boo too. He is such an amazing dog, and without him things could have been quite different.

  46. You and Boo working on instinct and determination. Thank goodness you arrived when you did and the vet was available. It’s hard to see an animal’s eyes and their suffering. (Reading on with hope)
    Good dog, Boo! (The are really fur humans)

  47. This is one of the most riveting posts you’ve ever written. I felt a tremendous kinship when I read, “we have to pick up that feeling of panic and place it away from us. And focus hard.” I also feel that the energy we put out – in this case the urgency of the situation to the vet – often draws or gives us just what we need. It’s a kind of positive energy. And then there are angels to help us (Boo, John and the Vet). I am so glad this turned out well.

  48. If this has been mentioned in the comments above, I apologize as I didn’t have time to read them all. It is possible that Tia had a displaced abomasum (DA) and that in your handling of her you unknowingly moved it back in place when she rolled on her back. (See Treatment section at this web page: http://www.thecattlesite.com/diseaseinfo/211/displaced-abomasum-in-cattle/). Not all DA’s need surgery to correct. Here in dairy country veterinarians routinely do what is called roll and tack (the toggling mentioned in the article) to treat DAs.

  49. Pingback: Tia almost dies – Wag 'n Bietjie

  50. I was getting very tense reading this, I hope she is fine now…I will be reading more posts later and find out then I’m sure.

  51. oh, oh, oh my…..

    Thank you for the gift of “almost” in the title. What a terrifying evening, but your gift of writing shines through. I was Right There with you, barely breathing. You have such a great gift with words. And with animals too, of course. And photos.

    I’m also so very glad that you have good (no, great) vet support. I have friends with a lovely Corriedale sheep herd in Door County, WI who have stopped breeding, in part, because they have lost the support of a solid big animal vet. Very sad for them.

    So happy to see in your comments that Tia is much better now. May this week be less eventful.

Welcome to the Lounge of Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: