Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Calf born backwards....

Hubs was out checking the cows on the range this morning and radio'd back to send someone to open the gate into the corral.  He had "a backwards calf."  A backwards calf means that he noticed the feet presented were hind feet tipping upward as you see in the first picture.  Normally, a calf presents front feet first in what I call a "diving position."

The first thing to do is to get the cow into the head-catch and then glove up.  Eldest son, A, would be the man to assist in this birth so he put the nylon straps onto the calf's feet and got ready to go to work.  The straps serve as a handle so he can help pull the calf.  As the cow pushes, A. jacks and pulls downward.  Pulling a backwards calf has its complications.  Often the calf is not born alive depending on how long the mother cow has been laboring.  Also, sometimes the calf drowns because the fluids are trapped in its lungs since he's coming out the wrong direction.

Here the calf is halfway out.  Once the hips are birthed, the rest is much easier.  But we still have to be ready to tip this little fella upside down once he's born in order to allow the fluids to drain from his nose, mouth, and lungs.

He is born, he's alive, and now he will be hoisted upside down by a hook & rope for a few moments.

Here's A. pulling the mucous and the membranes from the calf's nose and pinching him a little to get him to breathe.  When a calf is born naturally in the "diving position,"  the sack usually breaks and the calf is already tipped upside down whilst the cow stands and pushes or lies down to push.  The calf often starts breathing even before his is fully birthed.  Hoisting the calf like this is simulates the natural birthing process.

A job well done.  He made it!  Now it is up to his mother to lick him off and get him going.  Often we find that backwards-born calves have a harder time getting up.  Their back legs are often weak and they have trouble standing and sucking.  This lil guy will be watched closely for a few days.

As of this writing, we find that Mama Cow has not licked him off or looked at him whatsoever.  She's very up-tight, defiant, and nasty.  She doesn't like this situation at all and she's really on the fight.  This is not good for the calf.  Hubs warmed some frozen colostrum and fed him this afternoon.  If Mama Cow continues to act unmotherly, this calf will be a bum (orphan).  Time will tell.


  1. Oh my...all I kept saying was ouch, ouch, oh ouch! Glad he's alive...

  2. And we think we have it tough! Poor little thing, hope it'll be alright! Come say hi :D

  3. That poor thing...he will have a tough time. Dianntha

  4. Oh, I hope mom accepts him. Thanks for the peek at the hard work your men are doing. That must feel very gratifying.

  5. That was amazing! I really hope he makes it. It's always the eyes of animals that get to me. Thank you for sharing his birth. I am just in awe of the whole process.

  6. I still remember my feelings when my vet-school daughter had to step in to help deliver a calf that was in a bad position, as I recall. It was a lot of work for my student girl, and I was initially so happy to hear that she eventually got the job done--but soon I was horrified to hear that it had been necessary to decapitate the calf in order to get him out and save the cow's life.

  7. Oh Jody, how sad! Is the cow screaming the whole time -- it seems like that would be terribly painful! I hope the little calf will survive - especially after all he's been through!

  8. Such drama and suspense! I am holding my breath after that dramatic delivery. Please update!
    You captured it all so well, Jody!
    Although it's all in a day for you as far as ranching goes, most of us have no idea just what you face each day!
    Thanks for sharing and waiting to hear how the sweet little calf is doing....

  9. Fascinating. I hope the mama changes her mind. Poor little spotty baby.

  10. Okay it is offical, I could not be a ranchers wife :-P Everytime you post, I have a new level of respect for you xoxoxo Clarice

  11. What a wonderful story! Can't wait to hear the update. Do you name your calves? Let's see, it can't be miracle as every birth is a miracle...

  12. Wow! Those pictures are amazing. Poor little guy--will he survive if he's orphaned?


  13. WW,
    It is very gratifying work, especially when everything works out for the best.

    Gretchen Joanna,
    Yes, sometimes you have to do really hard things to save the life of the cow or calf. Decisions have to be made and often, quickly.

    There is no "screaming" and the cow is already in labor and working with us.

    We don't name our calves, generally, because they are all numbered. However, some special calves like this one, may end up with a name if he remains bottle fed. He'll still have his mother's number, but he might get a name too.

    Yes, this calf will survive if he is orphaned because we will bottle feed him. If it should happen that another cow loses her calf, we will graft him on her and hope she will take him as her own.

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

  14. O.K., seeing those little calf's legs sticking out where a head should be is shocking! Wow, and Ouch!!!
    I am so sorry that the mom has rejected her babe. Sad...
    Thankfully, he has you. :)
    Thanks for sharing,

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Loved that lesson in calf birthing! Your family does great things!!!

    Above post was deleted by me. Silly me ask about mommma cow before noting the answer in the above post!


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