June’s “Miracle” Discovery
I found her before I reached the creek crossing. She’d moved her calf to the south side sometime during that day. I slowly approached the cow and calf, softly complimenting One-Toe on her new baby. She’s usually very gentle but, like most cows, her motherly protective radar goes on high alert for a few days after birthing and I didn’t want to spook her.
As I moved closer, I spotted another, smaller calf lying near the pair. This was obviously another cow’s calf, but which one? None of the other cows were in this area. The calf raised its head and I saw a yellow ear tag but wasn’t close enough to read it. I crept forward until the number was readable. 54? Wheezy’s calf? Couldn’t be! I inched closer and rechecked the number. Yep, 54. The poor thing had been missing for five days and somehow survived predators, dehydration, starvation and a major infestation of screwworms! Maybe she found One-Toe and her calf and snitched enough meals to stay barely alive.
Breaking into a trot I headed for the house to get Bill, but met him in his pickup at the pasture gate. He’d made a discovery of his own but that situation would only get worse.
Bill’s Search-and-Rescue Discovery
While I was tramping along my smaller-scaled version of “Over the River and Through the Woods,” Bill and Cricket were hiking up the terraces in an adjacent pasture to check the level of a water tank. They were headed toward the timber pasture when Bill heard a calf’s incessant, distressed bawling. He walked in the direction of the distressed cry, crossed over the barbed wire fence and found Olpe alone at the edge of the timber, no mom or other cows or calves close by. He could have been napping and was left behind when the herd grazed its way to another part of the pasture. But it wasn’t like Cow #3 to leave her calf out of sight and so far away.
After a quick search, Bill found the herd near the hay feeders but #3 wasn’t with them. He located her about fifty yards away on the creek bank. She was lying down and resisted his poking and prodding attempts to get her up. Something was obviously wrong!
By then, it was dusk and Olpe needed supper. Bill decided the quickest solution was to walk the quarter mile back to the house and get the pickup, drive it to where he found the unhappy calf, load him in the back, take him to the barn for the night and give him milk replacer. He would deal with the mother the next morning.
The Discoveries Merge at the Pasture Gate
Bill was still astounded that I’d found Calf #54 alive. In her first eleven days of life, she’d survived a three-day disappearance with almost no nourishment; a horrendous infestation of screwworms slowly eating her alive; then a second disappearance of five days, again, with minimal nourishment. If she hadn’t found One-Toe she would certainly have died. Finding her was a major miracle! So Bill named her “Miracle.”
We arrived at the barn, secured the calves in a pen and went to the house to mix up bottles of milk replacer.
The next morning, Bill was finally able to get Cow #3 on her feet and tried to herd her to the barn. She was lethargic and he only got as far as the gate when she lay down again. He returned to the house, called a vet and described the situation. The vet concluded the problem was most likely milk fever, a metabolic disease caused by a low blood calcium level (hypocalcaemia). Recommended treatment was a calcium supplement administered either intravenously or orally from a tube loaded in what looked like a caulking gun. An IV wasn’t going to work: The cow was weak, but she wasn’t restrained and wouldn’t lie still long enough for an IV to be effective. Bill drove to the vet office to get the supplement and “caulking gun” applicator. When he returned home, the cow was still lying at the gate. He “caulked” the medication into her mouth and down her throat.
By Wednesday, Cow #3 had recovered enough for Bill to herd her to the barn so he could try to milk her and reunite her with Olpe. Even though her udder was swollen like it was filled with milk, he was unable to get much and what came out was thick, yellowish and showed traces of blood. Back to the house for another phone consultation with the vet.
Based on the new symptoms Bill described and the condition of the milk, the vet’s diagnosis was toxic mastitis and he recommended a shot of penicillin into each teat.
Toxic Mastitis 101 - Inflammation of the cow’s mammary gland usually caused by bacteria entering the teat canal and moving to the udder. These bacteria multiply and produce toxins that cause injury to milk-secreting tissue and various ducts throughout the mammary gland, creating reduced milk production and altering milk content. Severe generalized toxemia spreads throughout the cow’s body and can be fatal.
By the next day, Cow #3’s condition worsened. She became more lethargic to the point that she laid down early in the day for the last time. She died during the night.
Olpe and Miracle were the first two Romper Room enrollees and continued to receive milk replacer supplement bottles twice a day. During Miracle’s five-day disappearance, the screwworm infestation had spread until some of the raw areas were three to four inches in diameter. Bill resumed the treatment regimen and kept a careful watch for infection.