Saturday, September 4, 2010

The emotional roller coaster

Sometimes the toughest thing to deal with in this business is being honest with myself and my family as to why this is the life I have chosen. In any given day you can fly from the greatest highs and crash suddenly into the lowest of lows. Since about noon yesterday until now as I sit here and type this I and everyone close to me has been witness to a bit of both at a seemingly constant rate.

Yesterday started out as a normal day for the most part. Dakota left with Chris for school and work respectively. I had my day pretty well planned out and was looking forward to the evening’s high school football game between my alma mater Connell and rival Othello. As I changed irrigation water things went well for the most part. Now that it is just Festus and I we have a pretty constant routine. As I move pipes he finds a stick or other object that I throw as I walk back for another pipe so he can chase it down and bring it back. We were about done with irrigation for the day when I looked up from a last pipe on a line and saw him gagging. I figured he just had sucked in a weed seed or other debris. He stopped gagging but I noticed some blood on his mouth and his front paw. I checked the paw which seemed fine and checked his mouth as well as you can check a mouth on a heeler without losing a limb. He got into the pickup and just wasn’t quite right so we went to the house and he lay down while I ate lunch. Whatever had happened to him was pretty serious because he was certainly hurting and lethargic. He then vomited a bunch of blood so we loaded up for the vet which is a rarity for any dog I have had. The end story is he had obviously jammed a stick hard down his throat and had a severe laceration and had swallowed the blood. The bleeding stopped and after an x ray to make sure nothing had traveled deeper I brought him home later in the day. He is recovering but is going to be a bit slow for awhile. Fear, hope, faith and eventually relief were the emotions.

Dakota and I then went to check the fall calvers and to catch and treat one calf with a hoof injury of some type. We captured the calf fairly easily and almost caught his mother as well but she just beat me to the gate. I tried to bring her back but she got on the fight so I just decided to leave it be until today. The calf’s leg was a bit worse than I had suspected but nothing too serious. I also found one of the calves belonging to a first calf heifer with a case of scours (diarrhea) that was quite sick. I gave the calf some electrolytes and scour pills and decided he would be fine until morning. Anxiety, happiness, anger, disgust and hope were the emotions for these two issues. We went to the game and Connell smashed Othello 31-14 and made for a nice evening out with family.

I had big plans for today. With Chris and Dakota home I thought it would be a great day for getting things accomplished. I first went and gave more electrolytes to the sick calf that seemed to be a bit better. I found there were two new calves born and saw one other cow was off by herself probably calving. I drove to her (7322W) and she had some afterbirth hanging out but no calf around her. I decide to give her some more time to see what was going on. I was about to leave when I found a sloppy wet calf by itself. It was alive and fine and I then decided that it was the calf to 7322w and she had traveled away to have a twin. I took the calf to her, which she started to lick and I left to give some time for nature to take its course. Hopeful, joyful, nervous but content were the emotions.

I went home and got my girls and after feeding the fair steers we went back to check on the cow. She had traveled a long way and as we got close I got that feeling in my stomach that compares to being kicked in the nuts. The cow had a complete and severe uterine prolapse. If you look at the picture of the cervicle prolapse posted yesterday and multiply it by 100 and that is what it looks like. I really try and not call a veterinarian for help but I know from experience that there are times that it is the best case. We went back home, gathered a few supplies and called the vet that said she would be here in about 40 minutes. We went back to the hill pasture and the cow had moved which is not good because of the pressure of the hanging uterus. The good thing is she had moved to a place under a large tree and she was easy to rope and immobilize until the vet arrived. Apprehension, frantic, empty and yet hopeful were the feelings.

We met the vet about 15 minutes later on the road and she followed us to the far end of the pasture where the cow was. The second the cow was in view my heart sank. She had likely ruptured a major artery inside and had been dead just a few moments most likely from internal bleeding. A nice young second calf cow that had raised a good first calf and had rebred on schedule gone forever. Instead of a nice young cow calf pair I had a dead cow, an orphan calf and a vet bill on the way. Dakota and Chris were very upset and I was a combination of livid, disgusted, questioning, hollow and sad, all in one. You wish you could scream and cry all at the same time.

It is at these times that I wonder why I choose to make a living this way. Always it seems a struggle in some way either emotionally or financially. So much time and work spent with such huge disappointments at times. I guess the times like seeing the long yearling heifer last week with her new calf are the joys that offset the problems. The ability to do something I truly love and live a way of life that allows me freedom and time with my family. The sunrises, the sunsets, the growing animals and plants will certainly offset the loss I feel tonight given time. The fact that we have been on a tremendously excellent run of calving seasons is not lost in my thoughts tonight. I do not want to feel ungrateful to have the life I have, it is just sometimes it hurts and it hurts deep.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Lorquins admiral butterfly aka Limenitis lorquini.

Today’s picture is of cow 41y, an older Brahma cross cow that is a favorite of the family. She had this nice new bull calf with her this evening and two other cows had calved successfully. Things like this are what keep me going when life gets tough to handle.