Friday 29 April 2011
Yesterday Gordon rushed in at about 5.30 pm and told me he needed some help with one of the cows on the canal bank. Apparently she’d calved then gone down to drink and tumbled into the ditch, but instead of climbing out she’d walked along until she was wedged under a patch of hedge. We ‘buy the grass’ on four stretches of canal bank, two of which can only be reached by driving under the motorway bridge that crosses the canal. It’s very low and even on the quad we have to duck down, so any rescue attempt with a larger machine involves going around the long way.
I got there first on the quad with all the necessaries such as rope and several bottles of calciject, as Gordon suspected the reason she may have slipped is because she had milk-fever. This is something cows get immediately after calving and is caused by a sudden drain on the amount of calcium they have in their bodies. It causes extreme weakness and the cow goes down. Despite struggling to get up again they’re rarely able to due to being so weak. This cow was well and truly stuck under the bush, and since they rarely do reversing or turning around, we had a problem.
Some minutes later Gordon appeared in the distance driving the yellow matbro, which you can just about see. I’ve uploaded this photo without making it smaller, so if you click on it you might see it better.
Once he got to us he cleared the way as quickly as he was able. It looks a bit harsh, but the bush will recover and the cow might not have. She was starting to shake violently since it was pretty cold for her standing in the ditch. When they’re in this situation they almost looked relieved when Gordon appears on the scene as if they know they’ll be all right now.
He went down to talk to her and slipped a rope around her neck. This is the tricky part, apparently. A cow has to be dragged by the neck, which is fine as long as the knot on the rope is between the bones of their bottom jaw, ie directly under their chin. If you try to rescue a horse in the same way, you snap its neck. Similarly, if you try to drag a cow in the same way as a horse you can do massive damage. Luckily Gordon’s done this many times before and knows what he’s doing. I tend to stand around looking anxious as it always looks so harsh.
No photos to show you of the actual dragging out part of this rescue mission since Gordon had me down the bank keeping the knot in place so she didn’t strangle herself. It was a bit prickly down there and both the cow and I were glad to be away from the ditch. There was a moment of anxiety as she struggled to get upright and rolled over towards the ditch again, but she eventually got to her feet and started looking for her calf, which was sleeping about half a kilometre away, totally unaware that anything was amiss.
I went on ahead to wake the calf and stand him up so she could see him. Once she had him in her sights she started trotting along, mooing and calling him.
The pointy hand thing shows where we found her in the ditch.
Once mother and baby were reunited Gordon drove off to get back to the farm and I followed on with the quad. You can see from the photo how muddy she was, but other than a few scratches she was fine.
We walked them both back to a warm pen and let them rest. When she came into the parlour this morning I put a thick layer of udder grease on the worst of her scratches and hopefully she’ll be all healed up in a few days, but in the meantime she’s a little bit tender. We’re also having to feed the calf as he seems incapable of getting his head in the right place!
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