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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 9 June 2008 Issue

The Wounded Calf
By Gayle Hoenig

My 83-year-old mom and I, also no spring chicken, were coming back from taking some donated dog and cat food to an elderly rancher friend of ours. We were traveling the fairly remote and sparsely populated dirt back roads and came across a calf on the outside of the fence, which is not uncommon in this area. It was not in danger of getting hit by a car on this deserted road; but we were afraid it would get injured on the barbed wire trying to get back through the fence.

We figured that we should tell the owners it was out, so we went to the farmhouse. Nobody was home, so we went to the house on up the road. Nobody home. Coming back we saw that the calf was now back inside the fence, but it was hung up in the bottom strand of the barbed wire fence. The fence was running beneath the calf right across its chest and under its armpits. The calf was lying down on the wire and not struggling.

Mom, at her age and in her arthritic condition, and I, with a broken hand in a cast, were probably not going to be able to rescue it by ourselves; but I decided to see how well I could do before going farther for help since there didn’t seem to be any help in the vicinity. I crawled through the fence and got the calf off of the barbed wire, but it was so weak that it couldn’t stand. What in the heck had happened to it in that short a time?

I could not figure this out as we had just minutes before seen it standing on the outside of the fence, and it had gotten back in by itself. Surely it couldn’t have gotten hurt that badly or gotten that weak in that short a time. I tried to get it up (by now it had struggled around for a foot or two on its belly and had fallen into a shallow wallow next to the barbed wire fence), and couldn’t get up. I tried to help it get out of the wallow and get it farther away from the barbed wire and couldn’t budge it. It just lay there weak as a kitten.

I had gotten blood on my hands trying to lift it, and I could see some pink flesh on its abdomen; but I couldn’t see much of the underside, because it was lying on its belly with its legs tucked beneath it. I could not tell how badly the barbed wire had torn it. I had visions of guts coming out. The poor mother cow was facing us and mooing softly. She was really worried. Mom and I decided to go down to the dairy about a mile away and get help.

The dairy farmer followed us back to where the calf was. When we drove up, the calf was standing there nursing on its mom looking VERY wobbly and otherwise just fine, (and making me look like a total idiot.)

What we were not aware of was that while we were gone looking for help for the calf on the road, it had gotten back inside the fence and gone over and joined the rest of the cows and calves. The calf we were trying to rescue, and that I thought was injured, was not even the same calf we had seen outside the fence. It had been born in that short time we were gone. No wonder it couldn’t stand. It was only a few minutes old. The blood that I had gotten on my hands while getting the calf off of the barbed wire, and when trying to get it up out of the wallow it had fallen into, was from the mother cow. Now that she was not facing me, I could see the afterbirth she had not finished passing. The pink flesh I had gotten a glimpse of on the calf’s belly was the umbilical cord.

Good grief…. We had gone and gotten a farmer to rescue a newborn baby calf because it couldn’t stand, had blood on it, and pink flesh that was an umbilical cord. It certainly would have helped if the calf had been wet, or at least damp, but it was a hot afternoon, and I guess that the cow had had time to clean it up and dry it off. I’ll bet that the farmer thought I had lived a very sheltered life, but he was very nice and tactful about the whole thing. I just cannot show my face out there again. Bet I am the talk of the AgriFeed………

This was just one of those situations that set me up for looking like a fool. I was set up by cows…….. I can live with that. The upshot of it is that the calf we originally saw is not out on the road, and the newborn is not hung up in barbed wire, torn open, sick and weak, or trapped in a wallow. I can live with that too. It is up nursing on its mommy, and all is right with the world. At least it is in “that” pasture.

Cows seem to be out to get us. My daughter wrote me that she went for one beer after work and came home to find a herd of about ten cows in the yard in front of her apartment in Phoenix. I asked her if there were some pink elephants in with them.

Gotta watch those cows, they are cunning and sneaky, and they know how to make you look foolish.

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