New Job, New Equipment
D. E. Larsen, DVM
I stood at the corral fence and pondered my dilemma. I had just tried to uncoil my new lariat, and it was so stiff it was all but unusable.
“Doc, it looks like you need to drag that behind your truck for a couple laps around the pasture,” Jim said. “That will take that newness out of it and make it so you can throw a loop with it. You’re lucky today. This old girl is so tame you can just walk up to her and drop a loop over her head.”
Jim was right on both counts. The lariat needed some work, and the cow was a real pet. She nuzzled my arm as I fashioned a halter with the rope and tied her to a post.
“How long has she been in labor?” I asked.
“I found her almost three hours ago,” Jim said. “I had Dean come over and check her. He said her head was turned back. He tried to fix it, but he couldn’t get it. He is the one who said to call you. Otherwise, he said I would be waiting all day to get somebody out of Albany.”
I tied her tail to a twine that I tied around her neck to keep her tail out of the way. After scrubbing her vulva, I ran my left arm into her birth canal.
The head was turned back to the calf’s right side. That always seemed to be the direction that a retained head took. I don’t know why, or even if that was a valid observation. There was not enough room for me to reach the head.
“Are you going to be able to get it?” Jim asked.
“Yes, I think so,” I said. “I am going to have to turn one leg back, so I have more room in the birth canal, but I should be able to reach the head then.”
I attached an OB strap to the right front leg of the calf and pushed it back and down out of the birth canal. With the extra room now, I pushed my left into the birth canal up to my shoulder. I grasped the calf’s head by its eye sockets and pulled it forward.
Then I cupped the calf’s muzzle and popped the head into the birth canal. As I pulled my arm out of the cow, I paused and stuck my finger into the calf’s mouth. The calf sucked on the finger. It was still alive. With a bit of traction on the OB strap, I quickly pulled the right front leg of the calf back to a delivery position.
“This is going to be a tight fit, Jim,” I said. “This is a big calf for this cow. That is probably why the head got turned back.”
“I’m still pretty stout. The two of us should be able to pull it out,” Jim said.
“The problem, Jim, is that once we start, that calf has to come quick,” I said. “When the calf is this large, there will be some significant compression on its chest. This calf has been being pushed on for several hours. If the chest compression lasts for any period of time, the calf will die.”
“So, what’s the plan, Doc?” Jim asked.
“I’ll grab my calf puller, and I will be able to pop this calf out in a short minute.”
I attached an OB strap to both front legs and then washed my arms before going to the truck to retrieve my calf puller.
This would be the first time I used this calf puller in Sweet Home. It is brand new and looked it. When I was in Enumclaw, all my equipment was hand-me-down stuff. I was always worried that it didn’t provide a favorable professional impression. But now, this equipment made me look like I had just come out of school.
I pulled all the pieces of the case and carried them back to the corral. I threw it all over the fence. Hoping it would get a little dirty and scratched up in the process.
“Doc, this thing looks brand new,” Jim said. “Are you sure you know how to use it?”
“Ha! I have to admit that this is the first time I have used this one,” I said. “But, I can assure you, I have used these things many times.”
“I guess everything you have is brand new if you are just getting started in a new practice,” Jim said.
“Yes, I sort of feel like a kid with a new shotgun,” I said. “Afraid to use it until I finally walk through the brush and put a scratch on it.”
“Sort like when your wife puts a dent in the new car,” Jim said. “You are just happy that she did it before you.”
I hooked up the OB straps on the calf to the calf puller, and with everything positioned correctly, I started jacking the calf out of the birth canal.
When the calf’s chest and abdomen were pulled into the birth canal, a large volume of mucus came out of the nose and mouth. Most of this probably came from the stomach, but I quickened my pace.
The calf’s hips hung up on the cow’s pelvis briefly. I lowered the rod on the calf puller, changing the direction of the pull and elevating the hips higher in the cow’s pelvis.
The cow strained at the added pull. She stiffened and pulled against the rope tying her to the post. She fell, stiff-legged, in a flop onto her left side.
The calf plopped out on the ground. My brand new stainless steel bucket squirted away from the cow’s impact and laid, severely bent, in the straw some ten feet away.
The calf raised his head and shook some more mucus from his nose. I unhooked the OB strap and cleared some more mucus from his mouth.
Jim retrieved my bucket and pressed the edges of the bent top, sort of straightening it out a little.
“Sort of like that scratch on the shotgun,” Jim said with a broad smile as he handed me the bucket.
I wiped the mucus splatted from my forehead with the back of my hand and chuckled with Jim.
“It’s good steel. It will still serve its purpose,” I said.
Photo by D. E. Larsen, DVM. Same bucket, forty-some years later.