On September 10th we welcomed the newest member of our family into the world. A healthy, little Jersey/Dexter bull calf was born to our two year old Jersey girl, Fiona. We had watched her closely for several days as she made her slow progression through the natural changes in her body as she prepared to give birth. Fiona waited for both of us to be home, which meant we were up late that evening watching over her and making sure she was doing well.
Strangely enough Fiona insisted on going through the entire ordeal standing up. She even delivered the calf standing. This was the first time I had seen a heifer not lay down to give birth to her calf. I was worried about the little one landing on it's head, so we were there to "catch" the baby. As it turned out Fiona did require a little assistance from us, but not much.
JD was born about 10 PM. Within 20 minutes Fiona had him up and nursing. She did a great job of cleaning him up and pushing him around - and down - a few times until he was directed to the teat and latched on for his very first meal of nutritious colostrum. He had quite the appetite for a newborn!
And so it went for almost 2 weeks. JD getting stronger... running, bucking, playing, pestering his mom and all the goats. Zooming around and around the pen. Always checking to make sure that his mom was watching over him and waiting patiently for him to slow down long enough to drink a meal and take a nap beside her. She loved her little man and was very proud of him.
During this time Fiona was learning the routine of becoming the family milk cow, while JD was busy checking out the milk room and getting in to everything in sight... the normal calf behavior. Although Fiona had some edema, things were starting to settle down and going well.
Last weekend Fiona went off her feed and no matter what we tempted her with, by Sunday she was refusing to eat a thing. She would nibble some Bermuda hay and drink a little warm water with molasses. She lost condition and weight rapidly. We doctored her as best we could, gave her antibiotics, probiotics, B vitamins to help stimulate her appetite, and some other medicines. Nothing really seemed to help to make her feel better.
By late Sunday night/Monday morning early we knew she was in trouble. We had done all we could do here at the place to help her. She had completely quit eating and had no milk for her calf. She looked like she had lost 100 lbs. At this time we began to bottle feed JD fresh goat milk. the little guy was so hungry he readily accepted the bottle and guzzled down over a quart of milk.
We loaded Fiona and JD up in the trailer and hauled them to the vet clinic we use. The vet checked her over thoroughly and came up with nothing definite. She had a rapid heartbeat and was retaining some fluid. She had no worms, no mastitis, and showed no signs of having a DA. He then decided to take a blood sample and run several tests.
As soon as he attempted to draw blood, he knew something was very wrong. Her blood was extremely thin, looking more like colored water than healthy blood. 15 minutes later he returned with paper in hand. The numbers showed that Fiona's body was shutting down on her. Her red blood cell count was less than a third of what it should have been. There were several other readings that showed she was suffering from a blood disorder.
There was little that could be done to help her, although he tried. He gave her a pain killer, boluses to help her tummy, and more antibiotics. We decided to take her home and make her comfortable for the time that she had left with us. When we got home and had her back in her pen, she laid down under a big, leafy tree in the shade. It was a beautiful, balmy day - our first taste of fall.
We brought Fiona fresh hay and warm molasses water. She drank a little and nibbled a bite of hay. JD didn't understand, as most little ones don't. He ran and played, bucking and snorting all around her. She watched over him, her big golden brown eyes brimming with love and pride, as he played in the warm, afternoon sun. Fiona was a proud and loving momma.
I sat beside her as she grew weaker and put her head in my lap. I rubbed her big fuzzy ears and talked to her. I told her that she was loved, that she had raised a fine youngster in the short time that she had him, and reassured her we would take good care of her little man. We sat like that for quite some time and then I told my kind and gentle Jersey girl goodbye.
When I stood, I noticed that all the other cows had come up to the fence. I like to think they came to tell her goodbye and safe journey, JD came over to give her a hug and take a quick nap beside her. Fiona stood up one last time, moved over to a shady place by the gate, lay down again, took a long laboring breath and left us. JD stood over her and mourned until we took him away.
We will miss you Fiona...
Russell Ranch is located in beautiful NE Oklahoma, just a few miles from the Illinois river in Green Country. There are lovely rolling hills, lots of wonderful lakes and rivers, and forests full of wildlife.