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Friday, September 9, 2016

Red Bag Delivery

It has been a little over a week since our red bag delivery, and I still struggle with holding back the tears to write about it.
In layman's terms, a Red Bag Delivery is premature separation of the placenta during labor or delivery.
This is not a rare happening, in the horse industry, when a mare is foaling, but it is most uncommon, in the cattle industry, because a cow's placenta has several cotyledons to supply blood flow to the calf until it made it's way through the birthing canal and breathing on it's own.
Basically, when the placenta separates the baby dies of suffocation.

GRAPHIC PHOTOS in this blog post.

It was last Thursday morning.
Flower Boy went out to check the Fancy Heifers.
Although he is only a few hundred feet off the back porch, he calls me.
"We have a heifer in labor.  Bring the spotlight so I can see."
(It was just starting to get light.)

I grab the spotlight, slip on my shoes (actually his shoes), and head out the door.
I'm still in my jammies...

Sure enough, we have feet!
Momma is pushing, laying down, getting up, pushing, laying down, getting up, and pushing again.

I go back into the house, get dressed, put in my contacts and return to the pens.
 It isn't unusual for a heifer to take 6 hours to deliver.
Therefore, we weren't in a rush.

When I return to the pens, 
Flower Boy said "You better call work.  She's gonna need some help."
By help...
He means my arm going up the back side of the momma to help deliver the calf.
I'm the only one in the family with slim enough arms to do so.

Thankfully, I also have the education and training to do so too.
I have always had a passion for our cattle so, when I was younger, My Daddy sent me to breeding clinics, an artificial insemination school, cow/calf and nutrition courses.
I also earned an Associates Degree in Animal Science.
An AS degree may not hold much weight in today's world, as BS and MS degrees are now the norm,
That was over 30 years ago and I am happy to say, I use that knowledge every single day on the ranch!

As Flower Boy heads to the truck to get the delivery chains,
I watch her and I realize,

He returns.
"Honey, we need to get her somewhere.  Something is wrong!  I don't feel comfortable pulling this calf."
He gets on the phone to his dad, for his thoughts.
I call my work.
Not to tell them I'm not coming in, but to get dispatched to Large Animal.
(My day job is an accountant at a Veterinary College.)
"Linda, this is Bobbie Sue.  I have a 2 year old heifer, laboring since about 5:30am.  She is in dystocia and we only have feet.  Can you have a team waiting on me?  I will be there in less than 30 minutes."

Dystocia is an abnormal fetal position, weak labor, or basic calving problems due to the momma not dilating properly.
Dystocia is common in first calf heifers.
This is the reason for our every 2 hour calf watch.

We load the heifer into the trailer and head 20 minutes away to the vet hospital.
The heifer is placed in a head catch.
While the team is suiting up, they are asking us questions.

"How old is she?"
She is 2. 

"Is she full term."
Yes.  Her due date is September 8 - 13.
(It is not uncommon for a heifer to calve two weeks early.)
"What breed is she?"

"How long has she been laboring"
Since about 5:30 this morning.

"Has she progressed in her delivery?"

They connect the chains.
 And pull the calf from the birth canal.
The calf is dead.
 I knew this before we left the ranch.
So did Flower Boy.
We needed to know why!
This is the reason we took the heifer to the hospital.

One look at the placenta and a quick examination of the calf, I was bewildered!
In the photo above, you can see the placenta cotyledons that supply the blood flow to the calf.
The placenta is clean, clear and looks very normal.

How did the vet know it was a red bag delivery?
The placenta came out with the calf.
It had detached hours ago.

In a normal delivery, the placenta would come behind the calf.
Often times, it could take a few hours and even a day or two for a cow to "clean" after birth.

Upon examination of the calf, his eyes were cloudy.
The eyes start to cloud a few hours after death.
According to the vet, the calf had been dead for at least 12 hours.
There was no point to do any testing or further investigation.
We determined it was uncontrollable and a freakish stillbirth.
The calf probably died at the onset of labor.
With no help from the calf, being a young mother, and not dilating properly, this was the reason the birth took so long. 

Momma has returned to the calving pasture, just north of the house, with the other heifers.
She will be placed with the bull again, bred and allowed to calve next fall.
She will be one we will keep extra watch over.

Since then, there have been 3 perfect deliveries of healthy baby calves!

One on Labor Day!
 A bouncing baby boy!

One on Tuesday morning, at the 6am calf check!
 A feisty baby girl!

And one, just after sunup, this morning!
  Another spunky baby girl!

These three don't take away from the loss of the little guy last week, but it sure takes my mind off it.
I have never been one to be heart broken over the loss of life on the ranch.
I have always taken the mindset that it is God's Will and I must comply.
That's the way I was raised.
These Fancy Heifers have my heart!
We purchased some of them when they were 6 months old.
Others, in the group, are home raised.
This group just happens to be a symbol of who we are and the quality we produce.

The loss not only was a negative to our bottom line, but it was a real punch in my gut!
It's not going to be easy turning these babies to pasture, after that loss.
I fear I will hover and watch them closer than I have ever watched our babies.
Thankfully, I will pass their pasture on my drive to and from work.

Thanks for listening and following!
Rancher Girl