Friday, February 11, 2011

Farmer Fridays - Guest Post from Alarm Clock Wars

Today is a special Farmer Fridays as it is a guest post from one of my fellow Real Farmwives of America & Friends, Marybeth from Alarm Clock Wars.  Marybeth is a pretty amazing woman as she is not only a farmwife, but she is a veterinarian and always has a great adventure to share.  Today's guest post does not disappoint, but it does have some graphic photos of a C-section on one of her cows so be prepared.

About two weeks ago, we needed to help.

{Quick disclaimer – some of the pictures might be a little on the graphic side. Cows in labor are messy!}

One of our first calf heifers was going into labor.

(A first calf heifer has not had a baby yet. She was bred and got pregnant when she was just over one year old. Cattle gestation is 9-10 months, and this heifer is 23 months old now.)

Hubby Doc found her in first stage labor around 7:30am. He had to go to work, so he asked me to keep an eye on her for the next few hours and let him know what was going on. Cattle can be in first stage labor (before the mother starts pushing and the baby starts coming out) for up to 12 hours, so we weren’t too worried at this stage of the game.

The bag hanging down is part of the placenta. This is filled with fluid, and starts to detach in the first stage of labor. In cows, this can last a long time, but this is not in many other species. If you have a pregnant animal, call your veterinarian so you know what to expect when it’s time for the baby to be born!

I kept an eye on our new momma through the morning, and she wasn’t making any progress.

Hubby Doc always comes home for lunch, and it just happens that he had this afternoon off. So when he got home from work, we got this lady into the barn for an exam.

 From here, we did a vaginal exam to see if the calf was still alive, and if he was coming in the right position. Hubby Doc could feel both front legs pointed in the right direction, but the baby was turned to the side. When he gave a tug on a foot, the calf kicked back!

Hubby Doc got chains wrapped around both front legs to try to pull the baby out.

The chains get wrapped around the lower part of the leg, above the hoof. There is a special way to wrap the chains so you don’t pull too hard on the leg and hurt the calf.

As we pulled on the legs, we realized the calf was twisted farther than we thought. The yellow part of the hoof should be facing down towards the ground, not up towards the cow’s tail. The calf’s head was also arched back, and we couldn’t get the head looking the right way. We could also tell (by the size of the feet and the feel of the head) that this was going to be a big calf, from a small heifer.

{That yellow stuff on the feet is soft, and covers the bottom of the baby’s hooves. This is to protect momma during gestation. It gets worn of the hooves as the baby learns to walk.}

We decided the best thing to do, for both the momma and the baby, was a Cesarean section.

Many farmers will try to pull calves themselves. They have learned from their veterinarian how to put on chains, and what to feel for. However, when they get to this point, they will call a veterinarian to do the surgery.

So far, we have not given this heifer any medications. Sometimes, epidural anesthesia can be helpful to get a cow through a painful labor. This heifer had not been in second stage labor very long (actively trying to get the calf out), and she was not in excessive pain. Also, we wanted her to try and push to help us get the calf out. With an epidural, they will not push.

At this point, we used lidocaine as a local anesthetic to numb the area where Hubby Doc was going to make the incision for the C-section. (This is similar to Novocain you get at the dentist.)

We did not sedate our heifer for this surgery. If you sedate cattle, they will try to lay down. Since we were getting ready to open her abdominal cavity, we did not want her to lay down on the dirt floor of the barn. This would have gotten dirt inside her abdomen, which would have made her very sick. With good local anesthesia, and a quiet environment, cattle will stand still during a surgery like this.

After we gave the local anesthesia a few minutes to take effect, Hubby Doc started surgery. Here, he is pulling the uterus towards the body wall so he can have easier access to the calf inside.

He made an incision in the uterus, and we pulled the calf out!

We laid him down on the barn floor, so he got pretty dirty right away. He had some bleeding from his umbilicus (common with C-sections), and I put a clamp on it for a little while to stop the bleeding.

 By the time the surgery was finished, momma had licked her new baby pretty dry, and he was trying to stand up already!

New kiddo is an 87-pound bull (male) calf. As far as beef calves go, he’s actually about average size. But his momma was on the small side, and he was not trying to be born in the right position. Between him being a little big, and her being a little small, and the malpositioning, a C-section was the right decision for this pair.

Momma cow has a pretty line of sutures in her side. These will get taken out about 14 days after surgery. We also gave momma some pain medications and antibiotics after surgery. She will stay on these medications for 5-7 days.

Baby got some new jewelry. All the cows on our farm get ear tags. This is how we identify each individual animal. Hubby Doc can tell the cows apart from across the field, but for the most part I think one cow looks like most other cows. Getting ear tags is just like getting your ears pierced. Quick and it’s done!

This baby’s number is 1F03. That means he was the third baby born on the Feutz farm in 2011. His momma is 9F09 (ninth baby born on the Feutz barn in 2009). We also put the baby’s birthday and his momma’s number on the tags. We nicknamed him Charlie.

One week after his birth, and momma and Charlie are doing well! We kept them separate from the rest of the cows so we could give momma her medications easier and so we could keep an eye on the new baby. This weekend, they will get turned out with the rest of their friends!

Want to hear more about cows, what it’s like to be a veterinarian, or have some questions? Come see me at sometime. I blog about our farm, our cows, being a veterinarian, my daily battles with my alarm clock, and living in southern Indiana. I’d love to have you for a visit!

Thanks Mary Beth!



  1. Thanks for the chance to post, Heather. I had a blast writing this post!

  2. Charlie is a cutie. Glad you guys were there to take care of mama and baby!

  3. Marybeth and Heather, this is one of my favorite farm blog posts I have ever seen and read. First, it clearly demonstrates the reality of farm life when raising animals. Secondly, it shows how farmers and veterinarians care for animals just as equally as humans. I have shared it on Facebook and Twitter. And I am thankful no one photographed my c-sections. :)

  4. Good post!
    I think I need my girls to read this one!

  5. Great job! So glad you were able to help this new momma. I helped pull a couple cows during the diary and cow calf days, and those were some tense moments! Sure helps to have a doctor or two on the farm ;-)

  6. My friends cow just had a calf....birth is alway a miracle. Maybe a messy miracle but still a miracle!

  7. WOW!!! great post...thank you for sharing.