Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Hot Box

            We’re right in the middle of calving, and they’re popping out at the rate of about 5 per day.  That’s real nice when the weather is good – but we just got hit with another winter storm.  It was 17 above when I went out this morning for my first check, with another 2” of fresh snow.
            We had put out straw last evening, and the cows were nicely bedded down – except for one.  She had chosen to “socially distance” herself from the crowd, and calved a hundred yards away in a snowbank.
The calf was still pretty fresh at 0600, and I left Mom to finish her job of cleaning him up.  But after I had made coffee and eaten breakfast, I could see from my kitchen window that the calf was still not up and sucking.
A new calf can stand an amazing amount of cold if he is licked off and gets a belly-full of milk.  But that belly-full of milk is essential.  When I went back down, the calf was still lying in the snow, and was now shivering.  I went to the shed for the sled.
I rolled the calf in and started back toward the shed, with the sled at the end of a 25’ rope behind the 4-wheeler.  The mom was very attentive, and followed the calf all the way into the shed.
There I fired up the generator and transferred the calf to the ‘hot box’: a tall plastic affair with a big front door and a slatted floor.  The 220-volt heater blows warm air up through the grate to warm the calf up. 
Left out in the snow, the calf was rapidly becoming hypothermic.  He would quickly use up the meager store of sugar in his bloodstream, and become hypoglycemic as well.  Only an hour before he had been happy and warm inside his mother’s womb.  But he was rudely dumped out in the cold, hard, world, with his source of nutrition abruptly disconnected.
In the meantime, two more cows had calved.  But these two chose the warm straw and the company of the other cows.  Their calves will be fine.

An hour later I pulled the cold calf out of the hotbox, and he was soon filling his belly with fresh warm colostrum.  He’ll be fine.

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