When Cliff's brother brought his abandoned baby calf to me, I was confident that all he needed was a vigilant eye and proper nourishment. I figured he would be ready to sell on Craigslist in two or three days.
That was the plan.
Oh, I got a bottle of milk down him twice a day, but it was a real chore to get him to stand up at feeding time. He got a minor case of scours, I doctored it with the usual pills and electrolytes, and he was fine. But he never once bawled for his supper as new calves do at feeding time, and he had to be coaxed, and even helped, to get up. He was with three bigger calves who mostly ignored him, as he did them. He chose a corner in the sheltered area of their pen to spend his days, and there he lay.
Cliff and I finally figured out that the calf has a problem either with one hind leg, or perhaps with his hindquarters in general, which is why he doesn't like to get up and has difficulty walking. Phil told us that this calf followed his mother the first couple days of his life, so obviously something happened to him that injured him when he was a couple days old.
Just about the time I think I should have Cliff put the calf out of his misery, he will show a little more enthusiasm for the bottle or act as though he wants to follow me around the pen once his belly is full, and I think perhaps there is hope. Maybe my city friends are thinking I should call a vet, but a farm visit is $100, and the vet couldn't do anything for the poor boy except perhaps tell me what the problem is with his hindquarters. You just can't sink a lot of money into a baby calf, because you'll never get it back.
Last night we had another deluge. These days deluges are the norm, so we just shake our heads and go on. At tractor club last night the farmers were discussing the fact that they can't sell their wheat because all the rain has put something, some organism or other, in it that makes it pretty much worthless. They haven't been able to finish planting their soybeans, either. I don't know what the latest date is on planting soybeans, but we must be rapidly approaching it. But I digress.
I went outside to chore with some trepidation this morning, because there were fierce winds last night, along with five, count 'em, five inches of rain.
First I checked on the baby pig we bought two days ago... more about him in another entry... because he seems to be the stupidist pig I've ever owned. Anyhow, stupid pig had gathered his wits about him enough to seek shelter in the calf hutch Cliff gave him for a house. I went to look at Phil's calf. I've never actually named him, but have taken to calling him Blackie. He was laid out totally on his side with the older three calves all laying around him. When I nudged his with the toe of my boot there was no response, but I saw him blink, and thought, "Why don't you just die and put us both out of our misery?"
You don't want to see a cow or calf laying stretched out on its side for very long: If the animal is old enough to ruminate (chew its cud), it will bloat if it lays there long. Blackie hasn't progressed to chewing his cud, though.
Yesterday I had gotten the thought that I was fighting a losing battle, but an old Gospel song came to mind. You atheists can turn your heads about now, because I'm going to tell you a secret: God usually speaks to me through the old hymns, and I often get a message that means something for what's happening at the particular time that it comes to me. So as I was deciding whether or not to stop "beating a dead horse" (or calf), the words that came to me were this: "It is no secret what God can do."
So I fed him yesterday morning and evening. He showed enough enthusiasm to actually wag his tail as he nursed last night, but that's the extent of it.
After seeing him so nearly dead (I thought) this morning, I skipped his bottle. As I left the barn, though, I glanced over at him and saw him attempting to get himself upright. Well great. Here we go again. Now I'll have to fix him a bottle and try to get him up.
Going back to the barn with the bottle I had prepared, the song that came to me was "Whispering Hope".
Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard;
Hope, with a gentle persuasion
Whispers a comforting word.
Wait till the darkness is over
Wait till the tempest is done...
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow
After the darkness is gone.
Oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart
In its sorrow rejoice.
I got Blackie to his feet and gave him the bottle. He had more trouble than usual walking as I held the bottle in front of him, but he emptied the bottle. Obviously laying on his side so long hadn't been good for his hindquarters, and the three calves that had been laying all around him may have laid on his back legs... who knows. I wouldn't give you five dollars for that calf's chances to ever get well, but as long as he can stand up, and as long as some old hymn comes to mind when I'm tending him, I guess I'll keep on trying.