This day turned out nothing like I was expecting.
My friend came out and immediately began trying to get the calf out. To our dismay though, she found that the calf was not only upside down, but the legs were tucked up against it, and its head was flopped back, way out of her reach. Mattie was straining hard with contractions, but there was virtually no way to get this baby out unless we could re-position it into a proper position. Neither one of us was strong enough to do that.
So we called the vet. Actually, we called several vets, friends, family members, and everyone we could think of. Who was close enough to get here quickly? All the local vets were out on call (we even tried an equine vet, in our desperation), friends and family weren't answering their phones. I finally got a hold of the vet who I've been working with lately, and he said he'd make the 1 hour drive over to help us out.
An hour is a really long time to wait when you're watching a sick cow heave with futile contractions.
The vet came at about 5:30pm, and once he had his muck boots and coveralls on, he took his turn in trying to figure this little calf out. Well versed in dealing with problem calves, even he had a tricky time re-positioning the calf, and had his entire arm, up to his shoulder, inside my patient cow. Mattie stood rock still the whole time, without being held in any form or fashion. After some manipulating, he had the calf how he needed it: Right side up with its head nestled in between its two front legs. He slipped a wire snare behind the calf's ears, and cinched it inside its mouth. This would keep the head from flopping backwards again, and gave him something to pull on. He then looped chains around the calf's front legs, just above the dewclaws (think ankles), and heaved with all his might, with the snare and the chains wrapped around his hands. But that wasn't enough to pull a stuck calf. My friend stepped in and helped pull, while I kept Mattie from being dragged backwards. With a groan, Mattie fell to the ground in a heap. My friend and the vet kept pulling. There are the legs! Here comes the head! Yes, yes, yes! There's the chest, stomach, and back legs! With one last heave, the calf was out. There was no joy though, when the little calf was finally out and onto the ground.
It was dead.
It was a bull calf. Chocolate brown in color, with white patches playfully scattered over his small body. He was beautiful. But he was dead.
It looks like he died 3 or 4 days ago, according to the vet, and it was just a freak happening. Apparently it's very common in Holstein cows, but extremely rare in Jerseys. Why it had to happen to this one particular cow, during my very first calving, I fail to understand... There is nothing you can do to prevent it, nothing you can do to avoid it happening again, and nothing to do to save the calf. In the span of 6 days, my cow has had premature milk fever (very rare for a cow to get it before they calve), a severe case of pneumonia (uncommon to see a cow get it so bad, so fast), a case of dystocia (stuck calf; difficult birth), and an ultra rare fluke of a stillborn calf. Why this all had to happen to me and Mattie, all at the same time, I will never know. It makes no sense to my little head.
The vet continued on to give Mattie some more antibiotics. He gave her every single thing he possibly could and said it's all up to her now. She has a 50% chance of survival. If she looks better tomorrow, then she'll most likely make it and be fine. If she looks the same tomorrow, as she does today, then her chances are slim indeed...
When the vet left, Mattie wandered over to the fence edge, where her calf lay in a heap on the other side. She wanted it, but couldn't understand why she couldn't have it. I sighed, rubbed the soft spot on her forehead, where the fur makes a pretty little whorl, and then helped my friend drag the carcass out. Better luck next time, Mattie dear.
While part of me is at least glad that it wasn't a heifer that was lost, I'm still heartbroken about it all... I wanted that calf so bad, and have been looking forward to its birth since last July, when I first bought Mattie. All that's left to do now is hope and pray that Mattie pulls through, and then pick up these broken shards of life and continue on.
Life is tough sometimes.