Thursday, June 5, 2014

Triple the fun.



I tend to have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. On one hand, all of the best barbeques and social events seem to ramp up as the mercury rises, but I’m typically too tired to go. This time of the year, we have extremely long days, and as I get older (physically) and my maturity level rises (debatable), I tend to limit my social outings to ones that put me in bed long before the airing of The Tonight Show. I do enjoy having a few friends over for a cook out every so often, but when I’m especially tired, I’ve inherited my late grandfather’s knack for entertaining. This means if I feel people have overstayed their welcome, I’ll take off my pants, go to bed and ask them to lock the door and put the dog out when they leave. The lack of shame in my family is laughable.

It’s not just the strenuous social calendar that takes a toll on everyone this time of year, at Jones Farms we’re usually running ourselves ragged trying to get corn in the ground, and once it’s there, we don’t really take a breath until it’s been chopped into silage and put into the pit. So I tend to spend most of the summer alternating between an IV drip of coffee or Gatorade.

Not only are we concerned about crops, we’ve got cows to worry about. This time of year can be especially stressful for cows and the babies in the barn. I have the honor and privilege of raising the calves. It’s a tough gig, and can be extremely frustrating, but for the most part it’s very rewarding. Providing the best possible start for these wee ones is imperative, but isn’t always convenient. Last week, I had been on a tractor for most of the day and when I pulled back into the dairy late in the evening, I noticed a cow was in labor. Upon checking the records of the cow, I realized she was pregnant with triplets, and not only did I need to safely bring these wee ones into the world by myself since everyone had already gone home, I was going to need to feed them colostrum and take care of the mama. I began to throw a pity party for myself for being so tired, until I realized Sorrow Fest 2014 was cutting into my daylight hours and promptly began gathering the tools I would need to deliver the calves.
After checking the mama cow, I determined she was fully dilated and ready to deliver. She would need a bit of assistance however, because the first baby was coming backwards and had both back legs forward, so when I reached inside, all I could feel was a tiny calf butt. Luckily I was dealing with an extremely deep-bodied, fourth lactation cow (who gave us 36,000 lbs. last lactation), so the inside of her uterus was quite spacious. In fact, I’m fairly certain a 1960s-model Lincoln Continental could have safely executed a three-point turn in there.

After getting the legs positioned correctly, the first baby girl slid out with little to no pressure. The second baby bull was already on deck and practically walked out on his own. The third baby, a little girl, was resting quite comfortably in a hard to reach spot. Every time I reached for her foot, she fought me and made it clear she was quite comfortable where she was. After struggling with her for a few minutes, she came into this world. It was apparent as soon as she came out of the womb, she was the leader of this group.

As for the cow, she stood up during the entire delivery and only stopped tunneling through the alfalfa I had put in front of her long enough to take a breath and look back at me to determine the progress. However, once all the babies had been delivered, she became Super Mom, somehow cleaning all three babies simultaneously and ensuring they were off to a good start. I named the little miracles Janet, Latoya and Michael after the Jackson family. It just felt right. You might be asking why we decided to keep these calves when there’s a good chance one or both of the females could be a freemartin. Since they were born so small, we knew they wouldn’t bring much money at market, so we decided we’d keep them for a while and see how they develop. Not only that, but we just had our first set of LIVE triplets, and I fully intended on raising them. I was fully prepared to accept the financial burden of these animals and even let them sleep on my back porch if it meant I could keep them. Luckily Dad accepted my plea and they’ve been rooming in their calf condos ever since.

I milked the mama cow and realized her colostrum had some blood in it, so I thawed some colostrum we had on hand and prepared to feed the calves. Based on their birth weight, I knew feeding a gallon of colostrum to each calf was not only impractical, but potentially dangerous to the calves, so I opted to feed each a little over five pints. Being born so small and a couple weeks early, however, I knew these babies would be faced with certain challenges in the first days and weeks of their lives. Providing adequate colostrum would be extremely important to ensure long-term health and performance. 

The only problem was the colostrum I had on hand only measured 21.3% brix. I typically only feed colostrum measuring over 22%, and while it may not seem like much of a gap, experience has shown me even small variances in the quality of colostrum can make a huge difference in the performance of these calves later on. For this reason I mixed LIFELINE’s Boost product to the colostrum to add additional globulin protein (about 30g) to each calf. It was extremely easy to mix, pre-measured, and gave me some peace of mind knowing these babies would be getting the jump start they need.

The main advantage to using Boost is that it’s the only product on the market designed to be added directly to colostrum and fed. This saved me time since I didn’t need to follow the colostrum feeding with a supplement feeding. I could tell the day after using this product I had made the right decision. All three babies were rambunctious and eager. It was clear they were going to be just fine.

They’re now a little over two weeks old, and I am extremely pleased with their progress. All three are performers and they love attention, so their Jackson-family names are quite fitting. They’re all growing like weeds. I look forward to updating their progress on the LIFELINE Facebook page and on my personal Instagram account (@winesandbovines).

If you’re looking for more information about Boost and the entire line of LIFELINE products, visit their webpage at calf.watchthemthrive.com. Don’t forget to share your success stories by tweeting @APCLifeline and using the hashtag #watchthemthrive.


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