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7/3/2007

Out On The Dreamland Range

The cattle business can be challenging in the best of times. It seems the cow man is caught between forces that are often battling each other. If I didn t know better I d think Mother Nature makes a point of bringin tough weather around jest about the time a Cowboy is lookin fer a helpin hand in that direction. Bendin with bitter cold, searing summer wind, rolling floods and choking dust molds the character of the heroes that make their way through life hangin off the slick fork of them feisty cow hosses.  
 
Then there is the banker. Cowboys kin find there way into the most inexplicable positions as the squeeze between cost and cattle price comes so close together that they peel the skin right off a cow man s back. Maybe you ve noticed that most cowmen have a purty good sense of balance. They ought to! Cowboys learn ta walk a tightrope purty early in their education.  
 
Then there are the cows themselves. Flesh and blood is prone to sickness and disease sooner or later. Pink-eye, foot-rot, snake-bite, lump-jaw, hardware disease and various types of cancers all come into play. Calving difficulties are inevitable with backwards calves, maybe a head turned back, one foot back or maybe both feet back, calves too big calling for a puller or worse yet a cesarean section, retained placenta or a prolapsed uterus. 
 
It jest so happened that The Cowboy recently discovered a new momma after closin time at Drovers Mercantile. The evening was fast drawing to a close but from the looks of things my day was gonna last well into dark. The heifer had a bright, lively heifer calf but even from a distance I knew trouble was at hand. 
 
She had evidently strained a little more than normal during the birthing. All that straining had successfully produced a healthy calf but she had evidently continued to push after the calf was born forcing her uterus to prolapse. In other words, her uterus was actually turned inside out and was hanging out of her body about 2 feet. It looked like a job for the vet, but I would have to get her to the pens and loaded on a trailer to get her to the nearest veterinary office.  
 
The part I haven t told you about is that I had just had the vet out the day before for exactly the same thing! In that case the heifer was down and wouldn t get up. The vet came out and after quite a struggle and some help from The Cowboy and my son, Michael we got her put back together.  
 
Its probably been a dozen years since we had seen a prolapse on the place and here I had TWO of em back to back! I wasnt all that excited to call the vet and tell him what was up. I called Michael and he was on his way. I started the heifer walking toward the pens and had very little trouble getting her to move along. The calf was strong and followed right along after us which reassured the young mother, and in very little time we were at the loading pens. 
 
This particular prolapse wasnt as serious as the one the day before, which got me to thinking that maybe, jest maybe I could get the thing back inside her. I gathered up the whole bloody mass as she surprisingly stood still. Slowly I eased one side and then the other into place and to my great surprise and satisfaction I reached the final shove that put everything back inside of her. 
 
There are always contractions after the birth, which cause a strain on the animal. I was concerned that it would all just come shooting back out the first time she strained against those contractions. The only thing I though might help was to keep her walking so that everything would settle back in place. A vet would suture up the vulva to help hold things in. I was hoping the walking would take the place of stitching her up. By the time Michael arrived she was nursing her calf and it looked as if everything was going to be OK.  
 
We watched her for a while and remembered a musk thistle plant in the pasture that needed to be destroyed. In the few minutes that we were gone she laid down but she seemed to be resting easy and I thought it best not to bother her.  
 
Then I got the idea that we should go look at the yearling heifers in a pasture about a mile away. I would come to regret the thought. 
 
The heifers looked great! The grass is green and succulent. The pond is full of fresh water. But of course, there were musk thistle to be found. By the time we returned to the loading pens it was nearly dark. To my dismay, the heifer had pushed her uterus back out. 
 
So I was mad, unhappy, wishing I had never left her. If I had stayed to watch her I could have supported her and kept the uterus from prolasping. We carefully got her up and while Michael kept her distracted I proceeded to gather her up again and slowly put it all back inside her. There was blood everywhere. My jeans were actually soaked from the first time and now they were getting resoaked. I had taken my shirt off so the blood was all over the front of me.  
 
Again and again I gradually pushed the uterus into place, but I was tired from the first go round. Each time I nearly had it all in place she would strain and in my weakened state I could not keep her from pushing it all right back out.  
 
Guess I cant repeat all the language that was spoken at the time. I should have thought of it sooner! Michael is so much stronger than I am anyway. Just as I was nearing the point where she began to strain Michael stepped around and with one strong push everything went into place. It looked so easy I know my eyeballs must have just popped out of my head at the sight! 
 
So Michael was sure we should take her to the vet but by this time I was thinking I could do this my way. Besides I was not pleased with my earlier decision to leave her. I insisted that I could walk her until it all settled in place. All I needed was a chance to physically recover from the ordeal.  
 
I drove to the house and got out of those blood-soaked jeans. I looked like I had just committed a mass murder of biblical proportions! While I took a bath, rested and got into some clean clothes Michael stayed with the heifer keeping a close watch on her. 
 
I was gone about an hour. When I returned the heifer was laying down. Michael was down behind her holding her uterus inside of her. She was staining every few minutes and each time she did the uterus threatened to expel. Michael told how the calf had gone to sleep and was so contented it was actually snoring! When it settled into a deeper sleep and stopped snoring the heifer seemed concerned at the silence. She turned her head and bawled to the calf. That woke him up and he bawled back which was all the cow needed to hear. She then relaxed.  
 
I figured Michael was being too nice to the young mother. For her own good she needed to be up and walking. We forced her up and I began to walk her around the lot. You could tell she was uncomfortable. Her tail was tense and there was a definite kink toward the switch. It was gonna be a long night. The moon was shining bright. It was nearly full as willowy clouds floated past. The air had grown very cool for a summers evening.  
 
Michael brought me a pair of coveralls. He had a busy day ahead of him and I talked him into going home. It was nearly 11 p.m. The stubborn ol Cowboy would stay with her through the night. 
 
I carried a rope and every time she began to act like she wanted to lay down I would give a yell and pop her with the end of the rope.  
 
The night wore on and the moon gradually marched across the sky. I was getting tired myself. At one point she went to her calf. While the calf was nursing I sat in the pickup and watched. My plan seemed to be working. Occasionally she would strain a little and expel a little blood, but that all looked to be natural and I knew that the nursing would actually cause the uterus to contract. 
 
All at once the heifer laid down. I could see her going but being across the fence I couldnt really do anything to stop her. I had gotten her this far and I sure didnt want everything to go bad on me now!  
 
I jumped out of the pickup and ran around the pen through the gate. My sudden charge into the pen startled her which helped in getting her to her feet. Once again we were walking, around and around that pen, over to the stock tank and back.  
 
That little rest in the pickup had me thinking I was getting awful sleepy. My legs were wanting ta lie down jest like that heifer. I tried sitting on part of a left over hay bale, but every time I relaxed she would try to lay down! I was forced to stay on my feet if I wanted her to stay on her feet. 
 
The heifer that had prolapsed the day before was actually in the same pen but most of the night she had been laying in a corner ignoring us. I guess all the activity finally woke her up. She came over to investigate. In every herd boss cows tend to run things and that heifer was the boss type. She started to push that heifer around out of sheer orneriness.  
 
That suited me jest fine! I finally got a chance ta sit down on that hay. The heifers paraded around the lot several rounds while I leaned back and enjoyed the show. Of course all good things come to an end. The boss heifer eventually tired of the game and found a nice spot to lay down. I was up and crackin that rope again.  
 
Momma and baby once again held a reunion giving me another go at sitting in the pickup. I knew she was gonna lay down again but I had a new idea. After all that walkin I hoped things were settling in place. I had noticed that her tail had relaxed and while the kink was still there she was casually switching her tail and tossing her head in a relaxed sort of way.  
 
When she laid down I grabbed a blanket that I had brought along. I carefully walked up my new momma and instead of yelling and forcing her up I cautiously checked her and found that she was not straining at all. She looked back at me as if to say, Why dont you just leave me be for a while? 
 
I wasn t exactly ready to leave her completely alone. With that blanket wrapped around me I laid down with my head on her leg for a pillow. There I could react quickly if she began to strain and off to dreamland rode The Cowboy. I think I was dreamin of a million dollar ranch house with a video room where I could monitor the heifers around the clock an hopefully keep this sort of thing from happening! 
 
A sudden movement of her leg woke me. She was straining, but only to expel a small amount of blood. Everything was fine. I just lowered my head back to her leg and dozed off under clear moonlit skies. This time I think I was ridin my favorite hoss, Moon over the prairie on that clear moonlit night. Great shadows of clouds slowly slithered though the hills almost as though choreographed for a wonderful prairie ballet with me an my wonder hoss Moon taking the lead! Whoops! She moved!  
 
Waking, checking and returning to sleep continued for several rounds until she seemed to relax even more. Sometime after 3 a.m. I felt confident she was fine. Crawled in the pickup and by 3:30 I was in my bed. I think I was asleep by 3:31. 
 
I was in the pen by 7:30 a.m. and was very please to see that she was standing, nursing her calf and that everything appeared to be normal. 
 
She s had some penicillin shots to fight off any infection and I can now report that a week after the ordeal momma and baby are doing fine. Yeah, we could have hauled her to the vet, but like I said I wasn t all that excited about bringin him a second prolapse in two days and besides; I wouldn t have had this story to tell!  

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