Unhappy Endings

This was going to be a funny post with a happy ending.

The day started out comically enough, but things went downhill from there. When we went to feed the layers, we discovered a rogue rooster running around outside of the fence. He was running around the fence searching for a way back inside. We took down a section and he happily ran back into the pen.

The thing is, there was no opening in the fence. We checked and checked. Which can only mean one thing: he flew out and once outside, forgot that he could fly.

Have I mentioned this week that chickens are dumb?

Around 3:00 p.m. we found a tipped cow. You know about cow tipping, right? How if a cow falls over it can’t get back up? It doesn’t really work in the pop culture sense – cows don’t sleep standing up and they can lay down and get back up – they can get stuck and that is what happened to one of ours today. She laid down on a hill and rolled over on her side so that her feet were facing up the hill and she couldn’t get herself righted.

This might sound funny, but it is actually pretty serious. A cow’s rumen is constantly producing gas which must be released through belching. When a cow gets off center (i.e. rolls over on its side rather than laying with its stomach flat to the ground), its esophagus can get blocked, trapping gas in the rumen. The rumen inflates, much like a balloon, and puts pressure on the cows lungs. This is classic bloat. The pressure must be relieved, and quickly, or the animal will die.

Luckily, we found the fallen cow quickly and got her righted. Ryan tubed her – put a tube down her throat to clear the gas and to force some water into her to get her rehydrated – and observed her for a while. She seemed to be doing better so we went back to spreading topsoil. Once that was done, we finished our end-of-day chores and went back to see how she was faring.

She was back on her side and not doing well at all. The stress of the fall and the heat took a toll on her. She appeared to be seizing or suffering from heat stroke. She also had a rectal prolapse which is very uncommon in young cows. A prolapse is where an internal something gets pushed outward. In cows, uterine prolapses are not uncommon during calving. The cow pushes so hard that she pushes her uterus out along with the clave and it must be put back in. Kind of gross, I know, but that’s life on a farm.

On top of all of that, the cow in question was pregnant and due to give birth at the end of the month. With so many things to deal with, Ryan wisely opted to call the vet. Doc Sellers came out to look at her. He wanted to cool her down so we set about getting a hose hooked up, but before we could get it ready, she died. There was nothing we could do for the calf either so we lost them both.

This isn’t the first dead animal I’ve encountered here. On my first day we had a dead chicken, piglet and calf! I know we send animals to slaughter every week and it doesn’t phase me. But this was different somehow. All the other animals were dead when we found them. The ones that go to slaughter are killed quickly and humanely. She wasn’t; she was in pain. Standing there with her knowing there was nothing we could do to ease her suffering was hard.

So the funny story of the cow that rolled down the hill and got stuck turned tragic. These things happen, but that doesn’t make them easy.

5 thoughts on “Unhappy Endings

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