The temperatures plummeted into the negatives this past week and this little guys momma gave birth to him in -11 deg F weather. Last week it was warm, we even had 50 deg days but no she didn’t give birth last week. It was this week in the freezing temperatures. the evening we found him, he was mostly dry but shaking and very cold. We brought him into our garage to warm him up. He’s in the garage in the picture above. Unfortunately he frost bit his ears. They will fall and we will have to keep an eye out for infection. Being fairly new to the farm business we are learning and there is a lot to learn. This is our first calf born in cold temperatures. Being in the Black Hills at an higher altitude we try to calve later than the rest of South Dakota. We shoot for April/May, the weather is much better, but…. we bought this cow and she was already pregnant, so….. Here we are out in negative temperatures trying to save a baby calf. After bringing him into the barn, we turned on the propane heater and tried to get mom into the shop but being an unfamiliar space she was having none of it. We ended up having to build a temporary corral system and fenced her in right in front of the shop doors. Then, I hid next to the garage door and waited about 10 min. and when she went in, I slammed the garage door shut. I won! She stayed with baby in the heated shop for the night. When I say heated it was maybe 30 degrees above what it was outside and of course out of the wind. The next morning we opened up the shop doors and momma went out to eat and baby eventually followed. One of the first things I watch for after birth is baby nursing. With the cold temperatures, he maybe did do nurse as much but I didn’t see him nurse and I was not sure if he had nursed yet. After talking to the vet she had me give him a colostrum replacement. The calf did not take the bottle so my son and I attempted to shove a tube down his esophagus to feed him the colostrum. After he gagged once, we tried it again then he started swallowing it. In a situation like this it is hard to tell if you are doing the right thing. He spent the next two below freezing nights in the barn and it will be at least two weeks before we know if he will survive the cold spell.
Three lessons I learned:
1.) To warm up a baby calf use a heat source without a sent such as a hairdryer. Using a propane heater can leave a scent on the calf and momma might reject the calf.
2.) Baby must have colostrum with in first 24 hrs of being born or it will not make it. Most colostrum is absorbed within the first 8 hrs.
3.) I should get a camara so I can spy on the cows and not stress them out.