Rescue mission for a down cow

  • Betty, a yearling heifer, after she was rescued from getting stuck on the cold ground. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Just after feeding, I saw a white belly and kicking legs in the back pasture. Two yearlings were staring at the form on the ground.

Something was wrong, and I had to investigate.

Twice a day, after each feeding, I always take a quick check of the yearlings. If any are not at the feed bunker eating hay, I want to know why. There could be a problem, like the time Lou, a Highlander steer, got his head stuck in a gate.

This time Betty, a yearling Hereford heifer, was in trouble.

Betty is short with a round body, so round she looks bloated. Bloat is caused by an increase in gas pressure in the stomach and if not treated can cause death. Betty was not bloated, but she was lying sideways in a slight depression and could not roll over to get up. Her eyes were white, she was alive but moaning softly and kicking one rear leg as two other yearlings looked on. She was down and could not get up.

A down cow is a dead cow so we had to get her upright and standing.

With the help of ropes, Bruce and I rolled her over but every time she tried to stand she stumbled to the ground. She eventually recovered enough to stand and then walk, shivering, to the barn where we put her in a stall with hay, water and a propane heater to warm her up. Within minutes she started eating and the vet, Christina Murdock, pronounced her healthy, but shivering with shock.

Cows need to be upright to survive. If they lie down for too long, their systems shutdown.

Poor Betty chose to lie down in the wrong place and partly because of her round body, couldn’t get up. She’s alive because we found her in time. Maybe she should go on a diet to slim down a bit and next time she should definitely pick a better place to lie down.

It’s hard to tell what the next farm drama will be but it does seem the yearlings get in the most trouble, just like children, I suppose.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)