Monday, March 23, 2015

Downs and Ups

The second half of our week at the farm had some rough spots, and that's an understatement.  I mentioned that we had to send our bull to the vet; well, it wasn’t quite that easy.  We first noticed him favoring his right front foot on Friday, March 13, shortly after we arrived.  By Sunday, he was having trouble walking without stumbling and we decided to put him in the squeeze chute to have a look at his foot.  

Please understand that Spearhead Ribeye Dude X9 is what they call a “big ol’ boy.”  Here is a picture taken of him, Red Cow and her sisters a couple of years ago.  

He probably weighed close to 1500 pounds then, and he has only gotten bigger.  By now, he is 1800-2000 pounds of (thank goodness) sweet, gentle Hereford bull.  He seemed, however, a little dubious when we asked him to walk into the squeeze chute. 

He has been there before, though, so he is pretty laid back about it.  Usually he just walks through and we squirt some fly prevention on his back and he’s back in the pasture.  This time, though, John and I had other plans.  We decided to fasten the head gate to hold him, then try to lift his foot to see what might be bothering him.  We hoped he just had mud and rocks packed in his hoof from all the wet weather.

Our plan worked just fine…up to a point.  I asked Colt to drive Dude up to the working pens, and he did a masterful job.  Since Dude was limping badly, Colt walked ever so slowly behind him until we reached the pen.  Dude then went calmly into the pens, and in a short time we had him walking into the squeeze chute.  As he reached the head gate, John pulled the lever and the gate closed on his massive neck.  Well, it almost closed.  His neck was so thick that the head gate wouldn’t latch, so John had no choice but to let him walk out the other end.  

We then had to call someone to come with a trailer and take him into town to the vet, where three days later he had been diagnosed and treated for “foot rot,” a condition that can be caused by standing and walking in mud for an extended period of time.  He is now back at the farm, and we hope he’ll move around enough to keep his hooves clear of mud.  

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of our cow troubles.  Red Cow (aka B6), shown above with Dude and her sisters, was due to calve.  We had been watching her closely.  On Tuesday afternoon, she appeared to be in the early stages of labor, but in no distress so we were not concerned.  She had calved the previous two years with no difficulty, and we assumed she would likely deliver her calf that night or the following morning.  When we went to check on her on Wednesday morning, and were heartbroken to find that she had delivered twin heifer calves not long before, but that neither of them had survived.  

Since the birth of twins in cattle is fairly rare (about 1/2 of 1% in beef cattle), and since none of our cows had ever had twins, we had not considered that possibility.  However, the birth of twins is more likely to cause problems than birth of a single calf.  In most instances where there is dystocia (difficulty in calving) and twins are involved, it occurs because the body of one calf prevents the other from entering the birth canal.  Since our two calves were small, we assume that is what caused the problem.  I’m not sure we could have made a difference if we had been present for the birth, but at least we could have called the vet if we had suspected a problem.  There is a possibility that quick action could have saved them.

We consider ourselves fortunate that the cow appears to have come through the ordeal without harm.  However, it will be a long time before I forget the sight of that mother cow licking the still bodies of her babies and calling to them to get up and nurse.  We expect three more calves this year, and will do our best to be present for those births and hopefully avoid other complications.

On a more positive note, we did receive two inches of much-needed rain during the time we were at the farm, and had a great visit with Brian, Debi, Myles and Granddog Louie.  Myles, Debi and I looked on while John and Brian made some adjustments on the skid steer.  (That's Louie peeping in from the lower right corner of the photo.)

Brian took to that piece of equipment like a duck to water, and put in some 6 hours cutting cedar on top of the mountain, where we hope to create space for more grass and a habitat for the endangered black-capped vireo.

Known to his students at Paragon Prep as “Mr. Wann,” Brian will have another career waiting if he ever decides to give up teaching!  

Back in Austin, we were glad to have warm weather and sunshine to welcome us.  The live oak trees have begun to shed their leaves, though, and the yard, pool and patio were covered.  We'll pay close attention for the next several weeks, and hope to keep the falling leaves and the oak blooms that follow them from overwhelming the place.

When we added the outdoor kitchen to the east side of the patio last year, we had to move the screech owl house because it was too close to the chimney.  We were concerned that the eastern screech owls, Owlivia and Owliver, her mate, might not return to the relocated nest.  They have raised their family there for the last several years, and we were anxious to see them come back.  We were rewarded yesterday evening when Owlivia appeared at the door of the owl house and was apparently unconcerned that her home now sits in a different tree.

Owliver called to her from a nearby tree to invite her to go hunting, so all appears well with our feathered friends.

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