Most of the time animals have a pretty fair resistance to disease. They might come down with a little sniffle but often bounce right back before ya know it. This fall the sudden change in temperature combined with wet snow hit my weaned calves pretty hard. They were all coughing and walking around with a sorry look on their faces.
Michael and I caught them and vaccinated them right away and with the help of mild weather they were soon back to normal. Except one young bull calf that seemed to linger with a cough and sniffles. So, we babied him around thinking he would get better any day.
The morning of New Years Eve he turned up with a bloated belly. He was about twice as wide as normal and the look in his eye was one of misery. Ive had gas pain before that made me think I was gonna have a heart attack. Dont know if he was feeling that kind of pain or not, but it wasnt hard to tell that it didnt feel good. Bloat can kill an animal if not treated promptly.
I learned how to treat a bloated animal so long ago, I forget when I learned it. In the old days, Im told, a Cowboy could take the bloat off an animal by puncturing the hide at just the right place. Sounds dangerous ta me! Lucky for me they invented garden hoses. We always save the old garden hoses just for the eventuality of treating a bloated animal.
All a fella has to do is cut off the hose and make sure there are not sharp edges. I keep one handy in the cattle shed. So, I ran my ailing bull calf into a head gate specifically designed to catch the animal by the head in a way that doesnt choke him. Hes a really gentle calf and being under the weather had him mopin along without any real resistance. Once caught, I gently introduce the garden hose to his mouth and slowly send it down his throat. It is easy to tell when the hose passes into the stomach with the gas as it erupts from the open end of the hose with a whoosh! His sides drop like a balloon that didnt quite get tied allowing the air to flow out. As you can expect it doesnt exactly smell like a rose garden but the bulls eyes seem to soften almost immediately. Out comes the garden hose and the bull is released from the head gate feeling a whole lot better than when he went in.
Problem was he continued to bloat each day afterward. Each day a little less but bloating enough to repeat the treatment. He was getting so he just walked into the head gate without much prompting, knowing that relief was just a swallow away.
This morning, to my surprise, the same animal found his way into more trouble. Somehow he had been pushed by others into the feed bunk. He was on his side, nearly completely upside down. Any cattleman knows that it doesnt take long for them to die in that position. Their lungs begin to fill with fluid and they choke to death.
I dropped the feed sack I was carrying and jumped into the bunk first trying to raise his head. I was hoping that would help him find his equilibrium, but he was too weak. I tried rearranging his legs but still couldnt gain a position that would allow him to get up. Finally, I went to his tail pulling him up just a bit so that I could get some leverage under his rump. I could only make just a little headway. Over time I was able to get his back feet under him and shoved him to a standing position. We just stood there for quite a spell while he wobbled and coughed. After maybe ten minutes of standing I was able to walk him out of the bunk. The other calves gathered round inspecting him with snorts and curious looks. Looks like hes gonna live another day. One thing about it
I didnt have to take the bloat off him this time!