When a calf acts like a pig, it can mean real trouble.
Last evening, just as the sun was setting, Keith noticed one of our calves reclining on its side. This is often a bad sign. Occasionally a calf will lay flat out in the sunshine, basking, but when the sun is down a calf on its side...not good.
Upon closer inspection it was obvious to Keith that the little guys belly was far too big, and he was bloating up with gas. Cause? He most likely was a real pig during the last hay feeding and dove deep down in the wheelbarrow full of hay flakes hogging all the very fine, very tender hay leaves. Yummy stuff. Or the bigger calves ate first and he got what fell to the bottom, the tastier finer leaves.
However his "reward" was not so sweet.
Seems that these smaller leaves with fine particle matter will float up on top of the stomach fluid , specifically in the rumen, and this fluid ferments too fast developing large amounts of gas. If the calf is able to eructate (belch) or expel the gas rectally (the nerves that cause these reflexes are impaired with the increases pressure) he might correct the problem himself but if the pressure gets too great too fast, belching stops and the animal gets in trouble.
If untreated the distended rumen will press up against the diaphragm, preventing inhalation and the animal will suffocate and die.
Fortunately, we did catch it before we lost him. We tried walking the little guy first, he did get up easy enough. I prodded him from the back with a small stick and the occasional WHUMP on his back side while Keith went out to pasture to bring the cows in for milking But 25 minutes later he was worse. No gas, no manure expelled, no belching and his left side (where the rumen in located ) was growing before my eyes.
And his gait was staggering. In addition his side made that tell tale tight drum noise when I flicked it with my fingers. Keith came back and agreed with the retired nurses assessment, so he brought out the big guns, a puncture trochar and a cannula.
He showed me the best spot to puncture the upper abd. on the left flack about 8 inches below the spine and after tying the calf to a post he jabbed him firmly. Pulling out the trochar but leaving in the metal cannula we were able to immediately hear air escaping.
Within just 2-3 minutes, the calf's belly was markedly improved and back to near normal size. The cannula was removed and the wound watched.
The calf , you could tell, felt immediately better and walked away normally. Keith checked on him several times before going to bed and again early this am.
This morning I did some more research about cattle bloat and read that pasture raised animals (like ours) who are fed alfalfa in the fall, especially when the nights are cool and the dew is heavy in the am (he was, and it was) will bloat twice as often as in summer. The month of October is the worst. Bingo!
Now, almost 24 hours later and the little steer calf is doing well. I wonder what we'll do for excitement THIS evening?