We finished calving mid-February, but the pace didn't slow much. Daughter Andrea and I walk through every group of cows and calves at night to check on them and doctor calves. For a time, this took from 12 to 4 a.m. Now that thecalves are older and have built more immunity, it only takes an hour.
Due to the mild winter, we've had more scours than usual. Almost every calf has been sick, many seriously ill. So far, we've been able to treat them all successfully.
We've had wet storms and inconsistent weather (warm-cold, windy and wet). January and February were more like March -- the worst month in this valley for sickness if calves are young.
It's the main reason we calve in January -- it's usually cold and dry with frozen ground, thereby providing a clean environment for baby calves. Dry cold weather is much less stressful than wet weather and mud.
Late Night Doctors Many folks in our area are having a bad time with scours, and losing calves. We haven't lost any, partly due to diligence and the willingness to give up sleep to check on them each night. We work hard to detect cases as soon as they occur, and give fluids every few hours to those in the sick barn.
Andrea and I catch and treat a lot of calves at night. A calf can be fine at evening feeding and seriously ill by morning. If we treat at the first hint of trouble in the night, we can help him recover faster, often without follow-up treatment or days of intensive care.
We consider any case of scours in a calf younger than two weeks as an emergency. We give them more frequent administration of fluids and electrolytes (every three to four hours rather than every six to eight hours). We bring these calves into the sick pens, or the sick barn if weather is bad.
We've been diligent enough to successfully treat every calf with oral fluids, not having to resort to IV fluids -- though two were so bad we had to have them under heat lamps in a walled-off corner of their mother's stall.
We had one serious case of pneumonia in a newborn calf unable to nurse his mother until he was a week old. Andrea and I milked his mother every six hours and fed him by stomach tube. The cow tolerated our milking her in the stall, as long as her calf was nearby and she had alfalfa hay to eat while we milked.
Treating 24 Hours Per Day Our son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Carolyn, have had a worse time with sours and pneumonia than we have. Andrea's husband Jim spent two weeks in Mackay helping them.
We sent lots of medications, kaopectate and liters of IV fluid down to Michael and Carolyn on the mail truck. For more than a month they were spending almost 24 hours a day treating calves.
March 2 was clear and cold so we took advantage of the good weather and got all our calves branded and vaccinated and the cows vaccinated and deloused again. We delouse them once in late fall and again before spring, since one treatment does not last all winter. It's often hard to find a good dry day in March, so we try to get the branding done early.
This week, Lynn and Jim are at Mackay helping Michael and Carolyn move their cows. They calved their herd with friends who had better calving facilities, but many things didn't work out as hoped, including the weather.
Due to the mild winter, the concentration of more cows in a small area made it a nightmare for scours. So they are now moving their cows back to Alder Creek, where there's more room and clean ground.
Lynn and Jim are down there blading snow (4-ft. drifts in the barnyard and corrals), hauling panels, getting ready to move the cows and calves in several trips with stock trailers.
Andrea and I are doing the feeding and doctoring here at home, and little Emily goes along with us in her car seat in the feed truck. She enjoys seeing the cows and baby calves.