Lucy the newborn Angus calf went down with heatstroke yesterday evening and I had to go in and drag her out through the little milking calf door without her mother killing me. If I had left her in there she would have died on the spot.
It was 96 degrees and blowing hot. My fields are frying where they stand. And this baby was not drinking enough. I saw her panting hard in her corner of the barn, ran for water then when I got back she was down, stretched straight out, melting into the straw, her open mouth, abnormal, breathing fast and awful. Both the mother cows standing over her.
The moment she saw me, Laia rushed to her own calf who was fine but this left Luna standing guard over her dying baby. So I called to Boo – sit and stay and called to TonTon – go find Daisy (which means bring in the milking cows) – in seconds he had gathered himself and sailed over the barn gate then he bounded past Luna and jumped the cows gate at the end of their run, at a fast clip he ran off looking for Aunty Del who was out in the pasture, Luna turned to intercept him and while she was looking the other way I whipped open the lower half of the milking gate and at a crouch ran into the pen, grabbed Lucy by her back feet and dragged her straight out. We were safe in seconds and as I latched the heavy gate I felt the slam of the mothers head on the closing gate in rage.
(These pictures were taken earlier in the day by the way – no time for pictures in the heat of that moment).
Safe in the milking room I began to slowly revive the calf. Holding the small bucket of water in one hand – I opened her mouth and carefully poured a little water in, then I wiped a little on her body, then I ducked her nose in the water just a little, I alternated all this again and again, until my bucket was empty and she was actually swallowing a little water and sitting up by herself.
The whole time her mother Luna mooed to her and threatened me but the calf and I worked on regardless hoping the gate would hold.
I ran for more water and when I returned she was standing up and her mother was leaning over the half-gate licking her. After another little while of getting cool water everywhere on her I could – slowly bringing her temperature down so as not to shock her system, she began to wash herself then later again she began to suck on my wet fingers as I dribbled water in. Ever so slowly I lowered my fingers with her mouth attached into the bucket and she had a big drink all on her own.
At this point I thought she might be OK.
It was 9pm and still over 90 degrees. The calves do have small buckets of water about but they seldom go to water in the first week or so and in the first few days they don’t even drink a huge amount of milk – they are still in recovery really. This heat is testing for newborns. All newborn animals have a hard time regulating their own body temperatures.
As I checked her on and off through the hot bright full moon night I saw her find another of the calf buckets and have another drink of water.
I did not see her feed with her mother but though her breathing is still rapid this morning she is sleeping curled in the hay next to her mother. Her body language looks normal and relaxed.
The other calf, the tough little Bobby calf, is handling the heat much better. But has been sticking much closer to his mother too and sleeping under the trees instead of in the barn. So I have made the cows resting pen smaller, forcing Lucy to stay closer to her own mother and the big doors, and the fan, maybe she will drink more and stay cooler.
The heat will be here for a few days yet, though soon the storms will come which will be better for the animals.
It sure has been hot.
I hope your day goes well.
Tuesday 20% Precip. / 0 in
Generally cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High near 90F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph.
Tuesday Night 20% Precip. / 0 in
Cloudy skies. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low near 70F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.