Through the Eyes of a Child


Do you ever step back and think about how your kid or really anyone’s kid see you and your farming practices? It’s tough to think about sometimes. Am I putting my best foot forward, am I doing right by [insert species or crop industry]? It’s hard to see as an adult, yes I’m going out on a limb and calling myself an adult.

At this point in my baby girl’s life, here’s what she knows about the farm:

  • Sheep are super loud and scary when they are hungry (which is all the time). She’s not a fan.

  • The dairy goats are pretty chill and she loves to watch them.

  • However, it's the cows she looks for every time we go to nana and papa's house. She tries to look out the windows to see them grazing on pasture. She even moos now.

It warms my heart to see and makes me want to do right by her. To teach her and show her the best I can to care for and produce healthy, competitive, and highly productive cattle for her future. Because yes, I do own a handful and yes it is in the plans to someday move out of town so that I can have some property to keep them at my own farm.

So in the meantime, how can I show her how to best care for them? By introducing them to her early in life. Let’s be honest here... her first interaction with the Dexters was in the womb. Ha! There was never a point during my pregnancy where I wasn’t with them. I took her into the pasture when she was a month or so old. She was sleeping but it didn’t matter.

She’s been licked and nosed by heifers that are oddly tame and even Houdini has said hi to her up close and personal.

~Now for the how to do right...

A couple weeks ago I was getting everything ready to head to the farm to drop Felicity off with nana so I could go to the hog farm. I get a call that my cow, Cinderella, is in labor and it’s not good. This was her second calf and she was having some major trouble. Calf had it’s head all the way back but was out up to the shoulders. My mom found her way out in the very back corner of our pasture, probably a quarter mile away from the barn. Cindy was laid flat out trying with all her might to push this calf out. That’s not exactly helpful when you are trying to push the calf back inside to get that head around and out. I get to the farm as fast as I possibly can. The vet was on his way and Cindy was up and almost to the corral. One look at her and I knew, that calf was dead.

Young eyes were watching at that point as well. My 2 oldest nieces were there helping my mom get Cindy to the corral. Explaining to them we have to do anything we can to try and save the cow at this point. That she's in major distress and it probably won't be a good outcome for that baby. They've been around for life and death situations at the farm from a young age as well. But it's never a pleasant experience when its a young baby that may die.

The vet arrives and we had just gotten Cindy to the barn. I had to try and get a halter on her. Itd been at least 2 years since she'd had a halter on . Thankfully that didn't go too badly. I think at that point she had surrendered and knew she needed help. The vet had to give her an epidural to relax her enough to get the calf out. The head was so far back he had to have both arms in her to get the job done. The calf hit the ground and like we suspected, dead. Of course though, it was a dun heifer. A major disappointment for me as this was a Myles calf. It wasn't something that we could have prevented. It wasn't a large calf.

Sometimes things just happen. Doc said she would be up and around in the next couple hours. Before I leave for work, I go and check on her. She'd made her way outside with her rear legs straight out behind her. I don't know if you have ever tried to haul around a cow by her back legs but that wasn't easy! More like a gut buster. I got her situated and left her to relax.

I head to work and do my pig farm duties. Around 4 I check in, Cindy is up and around. Cool. However, as much as I wish that was the end of the story its not. The Cindy saga continues. I get another call at about 6pm that night. Cindy is prolapsing. Fan-freaking-tastic. I was also supposed to run a 4H sheep practice that evening but that was put on the backburner. I had to go back to the farm. Felicity was still there as Matt was going to pick her up. I get to the barn and see that she's prolapsed nearly to her hocks. UGH. This is not how this was supposed to go. A vet was once again on his way.

She was haltered again and given yet another epidural and also an anesthetic.

Mind you this is at not quite 7pm. Thankfully according to Doc, this was one of the easiest uterine prolapses he's every put back in. No tears, no excess blood, nothing horrible. It was hardly even dirty. Wonderful to hear. He stitches her up with a purse stitch just incase. Now to ask the questions weighing on my mind, should I keep her? Will she breed again? Doc said I would breed her when you put the bull out with everyone else. He was very hopeful that everything was fine. He highly suspected that the only reason she prolapse was because of the intense trauma and stretching from having that calf pulled. That was a major sigh of relief. Now was the wait to get her up. I didn't want to leave her. It didn't feel right. Keeping her upright was a major task. It felt like every time I would walk away for a few minutes she'd be laid out and struggling to breathe. She didn't make it easy.

Getting her to wake up was nerve racking. I was with her in her pen for a few hours trying every so often to get her to snap to. Nothing seemed to work. 10pm rolled around and I was still sitting with her. I was discussing what to do with my dad when all of a sudden she went stood up and walked out into the corral. Speechless. She was still a little groggy and wobbly. But I couldn't be happier.

A happy ending of doing right by my cow.

This could have ended much differently. I could have lost a calf and a cow. Doing the right thing, calling the vet, and getting the job done even if that's sacrificing your time and money. Teaching your kids that sometimes the right thing is hard is important. Who says farmers don't care? I would have stayed with her as long as I had to just to make sure she would get up again.

The stitches have been removed and she's on her way to full recovery. I think I'll hold her back on breeding and put her out with Myles again in August.

~Until Next Time

#hardchoices #Patience #calving #management

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Shamrock Acres Dexter Cattle

Hudsonville, MI

shamrockacres@hotmail.com

(616) 875-7494