Warning: The following material contains graphic pictures which may offend some people.
Kallioota V17 Velvet was a heifer when she first arrived here back in 2004. She was a lovely natured lady and gave us many beautiful calves.
On a very hot summers morning I found V17, almost full term in calf, lying in a gully unable to stand and so the vet was called. It didn’t take the vet very long to establish that she had done a stifle. Wikipedia: The stifle joint (often simply stifle) is a complex joint in the hind limbs of quadruped mammals such as the sheep, horse or dog. It is the equivalent of the human knee and is often the largest synovial joint in the animal’s body. The stifle joint joins three bones: the femur, patella, and tibia.
Pain medication and an anti-inflammatory was given in order to make her feel more comfortable and it was decided that we would book her in to have a c-section to get the calf out the next day.
Being mid summer and so hot, we had to get her up and into some shade with food and water. The only way we could do that was to use a specifically designed cow sling which can be used to lift and carry cattle when they are injured. A cow in that condition is commonly known as a ‘down cow’, V17 was most certainly a down cow and could not stand because she would have experienced too much pain regardless of the medication given to her. I had to carry her on the frontendloader of the tractor a long way back to the stockyard. It was a very slow, careful process with frequent water given to her out of a bucket on the way. She did not struggle and accepted her fate and co-operated throughout the entire move.
Our worker at the time Werner helped to get her into a spot where the sling was removed and she was made as comfortable as possible. In the stockyard there were two fully equiped sheds for sick animals both with a trough and sand flooring, which were installed when the stockyard was built. Unfortunately it was impossible to get the tractor and cow into one of them and the big hay shed was full of hay so we had to build a temporary shelter for shade and protection from the wind.
My good friend Fiona came and helped out with the shelter. Velvet was given water, had plenty of feed and was left to rest overnight in her special place.
The next morning the vet came and prepared her for surgery. Firstly she was given a general anesthetic, then he injected local anesthetic all around the area where he was going to cut. You can see that she is out cold and could not feel anything that was happening to her.
The entire procedure was done just like any other c-section on a cow.
The bull calf was pulled out and it was a bit tense there for a while as he wouldn’t breath on his own. You can also see that Velvet has started to wake up. I am hoping that she got to see her son in that moment and was proud, but the vet explained to us that even though she was sitting up, she was probably still too groggy to know what was going on.
Matt the vet continued to try and get the calf to breath properly but it was proving to be a problem. He had picked him up by the back legs and dangled him in mid air genty shaking him to try and dislodge the mucous in his windpipe and lungs which was most likely causing the problem. Mum needed to be attended too, so Ears and I stepped in to help out.
Still struggling to get air into his lungs, we got a towel and started to dry him and rub his entire body trying to get him to respond. The vet had indicated that there was a high chance that he would not make it, but that was not going to happen as far as I was concerned. I rubbed and rubbed and hassled the crap out of him. Very very slowly he started to take deeper breaths until finally he let out a huge girgly cough and started to breath normally.
Because we wanted the whole procedure to be done like the vet would for any other cow, he set to work and stitched her insides and outer layers up and gave her some more pain medication. Ten minutes later the livestock remover arrived, who we had called and organised beforehand, and Velvets life was ended as there was nothing more that we could do for her. RIP Kallioota V17 Velvet.
Meanwhile over in the kitchen at the stockyard, the calf had been relocated onto some dry hay and was resting comfortbably. His breathing had regulated but he was very weak. Unfortunately we were unable to find any collostrum anywhere, so he was given fresh cows milk instead obatained from a neighbours jersey cows that morning. All we could do was sit back and watch his progress. The next 24 hours would determine his chances for survival.
A few hours later he was put into the car and taken back to the house, where a soft bed was made on the balcony and he was left to continue to grow stronger.
By the next day he was up and looking for more food, so we fed him and carried him out onto the grass. He was a bit wonky for a day or two but eventually came good. The only other task we had was to give him a name. GRA Victor aka Wicky. Six months of early morning and evening feeds to come and we couldn’t be happier that we had saved him.
It didn’t take too long before Victor became a part of the family. Because his only contact with the world had been of humans, dogs and cats. Victor soon started to act like one of the dogs. I guess that’s because the only other animal he came in contact with since birth that was roughly the same size as him and stance were Sapphire and Bronson our dogs. We had been advised to keep him away from the other cows and calves until he was about three months old because he hadn’t had any collostrum. Collostrum is the first milk in the mammary gland which contains essential immune protection in a newborn. Without it Victor would be suseptible to infection and anything nasty which a normal calf would be able to tolerate.
He developed scours from the powdered milk a few times, so I put him in the dog bath and cleaned his rear end. The last thing I needed was scours all over the balcony dripping off his butt and tail. He loved having a bath. He would just stand there, enjoying the warmth of the water and the all over massage and towel rub. It became rather annoying as dog bath day became a huge chore. We could not give the dogs a bath and not Wicky. He’d stand there and wait in line for his grooming and would refuse to leave until it had happened. All I had to do was open the front of the bath and he’d get in. At the end he would get out. Just like the dogs always did.
Up and happy from just being fed.
The poor dogs didn’t know what to make of him. He would go and sleep in their kennels or hop onto one of their beds on the balcony.
He was like a small child, into everything and I couldn’t go anywhere without taking him with me. I was his mum and he hated being away from me.
At the time we were also in the midst of raising Jemma (You can read her story on the introduction blog) Poor Jemma would always have to be fed second after Victor and then spent her entire feed having him hassle the shit out of her. She was always very good and never got upset with him even though the photo makes her look angry.
One of our dogs Bronson took a liking to Victor and the two of them would always be together somewhere in the yard.
Of course a selfie is always a must in these situations. Victor always saw me as his mum. I could do anything with him and he was a gift who brought an immense amount of joy and love into our world.
We got caught slacking off. My husband came home and found us both out on the grass sleeping and took this lovely photo. Wicky and I would go for walks each day with the dogs and he’d get into the back of the car and go for drives. He was nothing like your normal calf and would even wait until we got back before he’d go to the toilet. He was unbelievable.
Jemma and Victor also became friends as he grew older.
Eventually we began putting him into the paddock next to the house to associate with other cows and calves similar in age. He would sleep on the balcony at night, but he would spend the day in the paddock with the others and play. He’d come in for a feed of a night and go straight to his dog bed on the balcony and not move until morning. He was extremely well behaved.
He really enjoyed his time with the other calves. They would run around together kicking and jumping. The mums would be in a frenzy chasing after them, but play was only ever in fun and none of the calves ever showed him any signs of aggression. He was enjoying his life in his own very special way. Victor was roughly around four months old in this photo.
Not long after I took that photograph, Wicky was running around the paddock playing with the other calves. They had made their way to the top of the paddock, basically to where I was when I took the photo and all of them took off back down the hill at the same time like they were in a race. Victor fell over face first into the ground and never got up. The Vet believes that he may have had a heart attack. I cannot express the loss I felt at the time. No words could justify having him taken from us like that. But I can say that whatever time he did have with us, it was a wonderful life here on our farm.
RIP GRA VICTOR My beautiful boy Wicky