A single mistake is just business as usual, but when we string a whole line of them together, the results can be a lot more serious. Honey, our five-year-old Friesian/Jersey cross, gave us a lovely brown-and-white heifer calf on Saturday morning, mother and child both in excellent condition. When she came up to the barn as usual on Saturday night to be relieved of some of her colostrum burden, we did notice she was a little uneasy with her back feet, but passed it off as the natural effect of having to walk around a bag approximately the size of two large sofa cushions — our first mistake. In the barn, we went to give her a routine, prophylactic dose of CalMagCo gel (comes in a tube like silicon caulk), only to find we had run out, and with guests coming for brunch the next day, we didn’t want to make a forty-five minute round-trip to the farm store right then, either. We felt Honey’s ears, which were warm, and decided she could wait until the next evening for her no-doubt unnecessary but by-the-cautionary-book calcium supplement. Second mistake.
Only, really, by then we’d stacked up quite a few mistakes, like not having checked our stash of calcium gel before calving season, as well not knowing exactly where our I.V. apparatus for administering emergency calcium was, or in what condition. So that by Sunday morning, when Honey tottered up to the barn on distinctly unreliable legs, and a few minutes later collapsed, we were well and truly behind the eight-ball, and so was she. It was classic milk fever, and while Honey struggled to rise with muscles that could not respond, Beth was home searching the veterinary equipment for her I.V. simplex (not to be found) and getting the vet out of bed to come dig us out of our self-inflicted difficulties.
Eventually the simplex was found. Examination revealed that age and oxidation had made it nearly useless (the rubber cup wears out with time), but we jury-rigged it, and after some fruitless stabbing around (sorry, Honey) we got a needle in the cow’s jugular and dripped in 500 ml of calcium gluconate (yes, you could do this yourself at home). Polly the vet showed up and administered another 500 ml of CMPK (remember your highschool chemistry?) which covered our backsides in case there was also magnesium deficiency involved (probably not, but we weren’t feeling too secure by that time), and after another ten minutes or so Honey got up and walked away, done and done. Another case of Providence being gentle with stupid, careless people — but we’d be crazy to count on it. Monday we cleaned out the Coop of all the calcium gel on the shelf, and we’ve placed an order for a new simplex.
Maybe we should have asked for overnight delivery.