Last week we had a calf die.
She was about 5 days old, was looking bright and cheerful when she ate her supper, and we found her very weak early the next morning as we brought out breakfast.
We treated her with antibiotics, knowing that it was a long shot for how ill she was. She died a few hours later.
That day sucked.
But, you’ve got to pick yourself up quickly in order to keep it from happening again. Step one if getting our veterinarian involved. Our hope was that the vet could help cure the calf. Their job on our farm is to try to prevent illness on the farm in the first place, instead of always trying to cure it (although they are very good at the curing part too when needed). Call it preventative medicine versus reactionary medicine. You do the same thing by eating well, washing your hands regularly during cold season, or get a physical. Because of how quickly the calf was going downhill, nothing could be done.
Once the calf died, the vet performed a quick autopsy. This involved an inspection of vital organs to see if it could have been something the calf was born with. With nothing standing out, samples were taken of the kidneys, liver, stomach, bowels, and stool. All of these are going to a lab to be examined and tested for a slate of bacteria and viruses to see just what could have happened. Luckily, another of our newborn calves has shown no signs of illness and is doing well.
Whether this was a rarity that is hard to explain, similar to other cases in human or animal health – or something that can be prevented, we will do our best to get to the bottom of it. Strong, healthy calves mean everything to us, not just because we want to see them that way – but because they’ll grow into the cows we need to provide milk for all of us.
Farm life is a great life – but it isn’t perfect and some days, like this one, are hard to take. Good thing they don’t come very often.