Gemini Is Not A Good Sign For Cows

Sure, they're adorable. At about half the size of the other calves, they couldn't be anything else. But beware; behind those soft brown eyes there waits a bottomless pit for the would be stockman. They start life small, grow very slowly, and you'll find, like we have, that they will become living examples of Murphy's Law in action. They are the epitome of a "poor doer". The heifer is finally coming around and starting to grow, but the steer calf lived up to his nickname - Puny. It seems that about every two weeks or so, he took it into his head that "Today would be a good day to die", and, putting everything he had into acting on that thought, he pretty much dropped like a stone. You got the feeling he would have flung himself off a bridge if we had one, (which we don't.)

So he decided to "catch something" instead. He might, or maight not chill, run a fever, grind his teeth, lie slack-jawed, turn pale, turn red, scour, bloat, lie deathly still, or struggle mightily, depending on what he was dying with at the time. We have nursed him through shipping fever, colds, scours, & pneuminia. He has had shots, pills, rubdowns and wet blankets, according to the situation. (too cold or too hot?) For the most part, we covered him with blankets, made him comfortable, fed him sugar water and/or electrolytes and agonized over his condition until, 6 hours to three days later, he changed his mind and staggered to his feet, ravenously hungry.

Other than looking a little thinner, within 2 days he was back to normal - which, considering he was the smaller and weaker of the two, wasn't saying much. More than once we had said, "If he's not up by tomorrow, we were going to let him 'graze with his ancestors' in cow heaven" and have him put down for good, but almost as if he could read our minds, he would get up on his own.

I told my neighbor the other day that we had to put him in the barn because it was starting to rain, and I was afraid he would melt like the Wicked Witch if he got wet. At that point, it wouldn't have surprised me if he did. Besides the cost of medicine, he was taking quite a toll emotionally, with the seemingly endless question of "Will he make it?", or "Is this the last roundup?" hovering over his head like the sword of Damocles.

Late one night, actually around 2:00 in the morning, he mercifully answered the question himself, quietly slipping away to those greener pastures somewhere in the great beyond. True to form, he wasn't alone, as I was sitting up with him (again). His passing was not a total loss; not that it helped Puny very much, but we learned valuable lessons in emergency livestock care. I'm all set if I should ever need to treat a ruminant for bloat, or tube a baby too weak and cold to eat, and I've even developed a swell technique for carrying large, limp animals around. I'm ready for the next one, God forbid there should ever be another.


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