Yesterday (wow, was it only yesterday? It feels like ages ago,) Bunchkin came running into the house telling me that Lucy couldn’t stand up. We immediately called the vet who thought it was either milk fever (which usually doesn’t happen until after they calve) or low blood sugar (which can occasionally happen with big drops in temperature like we had the other night.) He gave her an IV dose of calcium and dextrose and said that if she wasn’t up within a few hours, to call him. She wasn’t.
He came back, and with the help of our incredibly kind neighbor we lifted her with a tractor and a set of hip lifts (they clamp on to the hip bones of the cow and you chain them to the tractor and lift slowly. It didn’t seem so bad the first time we did it, but every time after that, Lucy has struggled and fought to get rid of them, and they’ve rubbed the fur off of her in a circle. I’m praying we don’t have to do this many more times.)
Once she was up, she was able to stay up for about three hours before we went to bed and then some time during the night, she laid down and couldn’t get back up again.
We called our neighbor this morning and he came out to lift her again and presumably because she was down for so long last night, she had a very difficult time getting up this morning. We did finally get her up, though, and once she was up she actually looked better on her feet than she had the day before. She was able to walk around some and she ate a bit and I spent most of today researching things to do for her and gathering supplies.
Since this morning, we’ve gotten her up twice (our neighbor deserves an award for being willing to come over as often as he is to help us lift her – we are so blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives, including my mother-in-law who, among other things, stayed an extra day to help us), given her her doses of vitamin B complex, calcium and probiotics, and we’re giving her molasses, salt and kelp free choice. Tonight we’ll also give her a dose of CMPK (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium) and tomorrow I’m going to call the vet to ask about a steroid I’ve heard about – dexamethozone (not sure if I’ve spelled that right) that a friend has had good results with. We’re also walking her around every time she gets up (she was lifted twice today and stayed up for over three hours both times, which is a good sign), and tonight the kids and I spent a lot of time rubbing down her legs every fifteen minutes or so in hopes of helping get her blood circulated. If we had a tractor, I’d be getting her up during the night, too, but as it is I’m praying that working hard with her right before dark will help in some small way to keep her strength up during the night. I’ll also put blankets on her once she lays down for the night and I made a sort of strap-on cow blanket out of the sheep hides I’ve been working on, in hopes that will it help a little bit in keeping her warm (I figure the less energy her body has to use to keep her warm, the more she’ll have for the next time she tries to get up.) We really are doing everything we can think of to do, so if anyone else has any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
So what does this mean for Lucy? Well, the short answer is… we don’t know. She must get to a point where she can stand on her own, her body will only handle being lifted so many times and we can’t sling her because the sling may cut off blood supply to her calf. If she doesn’t improve within a few days, our only real option is to allow her to stay on the ground for as long as we can (the vet says the longest we could do that without her suffering is a week) and, in an effort to save the calf, induce on day four (it takes three days for the induction medication to work.) Even if we induce, we have a very narrow window within which to induce if we want to save the life of the calf (within two weeks of her due date which we don’t know for sure.) The next few days are absolutely critical.
One thing that really sticks out to me during this whole thing is how special it is that I have gained Lucy’s trust so completely. When she first came to us, she was very afraid of us and although she always allowed me to milk her with no problems, it took quite a while before she finally allowed me to pet her, especially around her head.
For the past two days, we’ve not only put her through absolute hell in our attempts to get her up, but even after we’ve put her through it all, she’s never run away from me, or tried to hurt me in any way. Yesterday, she actually fell asleep with her head in my lap and last night she allowed me to take the hip clamps off of her, even though the vet recommended that I leave them on until she laid down, because he was afraid she would fall in an attempt to run away if I tried to take them off while she was standing. But she never moved as I loosened them and slipped them off and hasn’t had any problems with me taking them off since then.
Today, I forced medicine down her throat, gave her a shot, put those awful clamps on her twice and hauled her up by a chain and a tractor and she STILL allowed us to rub her legs down tonight and tie sheep hides to her (more than once, since it took some trial and error to figure out the best way to do it.)
That seems like an incredible amount of trust for an animal to give someone and although this may sound over-exaggerated, I’m honored that she has given me that trust.
I’ve said it so many times… I really love my cow. I pray that she’ll be okay, and I’d really appreciate your prayers, too.