Monday, October 5, 2015

Holy Cow....Now You've Done It!

I said that I'd never get a cow. Lots of sound reasons for that decision. But .....sigh.....this little cow needed saving. Like now, immediately, today, or else in would be dead in 48 hours. So here I go, I've got a cow. Thankfully it's a small one, a very young calf. 

I discovered that one of my mother's neighbors had acquired a very young calf 2-3 weeks ago, and unbeknown to me, had it tied out in a patch of overgrown guinea grass. That coarse tall grass was it's only source of nourishment for the past couple weeks. No milk. Kind of like giving your infant celery stalks and expecting it to survive. 

Well, I discovered the existence of this unfortunate calf. Laying on its side, crawling with flies, unable to right itself. 

Now, I just couldn't simply ignore it and walk away. So with rage building up inside me, I sought out the owner. He was off lounging in the county park but the wife, who was at home with her kids, was eager and willing to give me the dying calf, most likely just to get rid of this fuming old haole lady. She was surely aware of how I flipped over her neighbor's starving his two dogs (and abandoning one of them up in the hills), so she knew I meant business and would fly into action. To her benefit, she eagerly gave me the calf without a protest. 

The poor calf was skin and bones. I later weighed it and found it was only 90 pounds. Just a skeleton. Besides starving and malnutritioned, it also had several patches of wiggling maggots. I scissored off the fur in several spots in order to remove hundreds, no...thousands of small maggots.

After treating it for shock and dehydration (the owner had water available but the calf wasn't able to get onto it's feet to reach it), the calf was able to stand although it was quite unsteady. I saw that in addition to maggot problems, it also had a mucous discharge from its nose. Poor baby. 

By the way, notice the way this calf is tethered? A hose around the neck, half rotten rope knotted every which way, pieces of broken old dog tie out cable knotted together. The only reason this could hold the calf was because it was too weak to pull on it. 

The more I searched through the fur, the more maggot patches I found. It took more than an hour's work to rid the calf of them all. 

I took some photos right away to document how thin this calf is. It sure is skinny because it took no effort the lift it into my truck. 

I don't know when it was last able to eat, but it surely had no thickness to its gut or body. 

I offered it a gallon of water colored with a little calf milk replacer, not too much. It drank that down, then after a few minutes began grazing the tender grass tips. 

Five hours later is was much improved. No longer staggering. Constantly nibbling and moving about. I offered it another bowl of liquid, of which it drank about half then turned to graze again. Much improved! 

Notice that the calf has a full gut now? I don't know how well developed it's rumen is at this tender age, but the calf surely is interested in eating. I need to figure out over the next few days how to get adequate nutrition into it. 
It's been here now for seven hours and still hasn't passed any fecal material. I guess it hadn't eaten for quite a while. I need to watch it carefully for many days and gradually get it used to taking in nutrition. Feeding such malnutritioned baby animals is tricky. Over feeding can kill them as certain as starvation can. 

11/1/15 update:
Sadly the calf did not make it. Though it gradually regained a mediocre appetite, it never regained full strength or normal appetite. The nasal discharge became progressively worse and non-responsive to antibiotics and other treatments. The calf eventually developed a fever, labored breathing, and lack of appetite. It was too debilitated to combat the illness and have a will to live. Poor thing. 


  1. Some people have no business owning a living, breathing being...So glad you took this little baby in! Hope it makes it!

  2. Bless you for rescuing this little one! We, too, now have a rescued cow, a much older one who was the runt of the herd. She was gored and had sores but they weren't maggoty like your little calf here. Good luck and best wishes to your newest addition to the farm!

  3. Sounds like you know what you're doing. You're right. Feeding up a malnourished and dehydrated animal is very tricky! I would have to get a vet's advice. Good luck! I hope it goes all right and you can save it. It does not look very old. It does not even look old enough to be weaned. Was it a drop calf? I'm sure you did not stick around to ask the (criminal) owner a bunch of questions. They most likely didn't even know.

  4. I don't anything about this calf's history. Considering that the husband has never asked me to reinburse him it's purchase price, I'm suspecting that the calf was poached. It surely wouldn't be the first time a local around here stole a calf from one of the less visible pastures.

    So far the calf is still alive. I'm hoping it makes it through the rest of the week.

    1. That is one lucky calf. If you can pull it off. If it lives you have to call it "Luke" as in "the (life) force is strong in this one."

      I can just hear the conversation over at the neighbor's (one scenario) Wife to husband: "What were you thinking? We don't have enough food for it!" Husband: "It was just there for the taking. I couldn't help myself." Wife: "If we start buying feed it's going to be a tip-off that we have a cow and the game warden will find us. It's just going to die." Husband: "I can't take it back either. Oh well. It was stupid of me."

      Am I being too generous?