We agreed to let KC, the guy who sold us our calves, pasture some of his cows in our field. It's worked out beautifully for us because he helped us find a great deal on our hay for the year. Even better, because of the deal he's worked out with my neighbor, he's providing the water for the whole herd for the winter. Considering this was one of my top worries in keeping a couple steers, I'm thrilled. He's also been keeping everyone fed. I've offered to help, but for now, he's liking doing it on his own, and says he'll just pull from our haystack when the time comes. Yes, folks, I have a haystack now.
One of the steers KC introduced to the herd freaked me out more than a little. I think he came a bit sick, and his left side seemed a bit distended. KC put a valve INTO THE SIDE OF THE CALF and that helped reduce the bloat. Which was good. On the bad side, this cow had poo oozing out of the valve and running down his side at all times. As a novice cow raiser, this freaked me right out. Here was yet another thing I didn't realize I had to worry about. I guess this is called "bloat" and isn't completely unheard of. Great.
Let me interject here by saying that KC is one of the biggest animal lovers I've met- he's realistic about what happens in livestock, but he seems to love taking on the tricky cases, and bringing animals back from the brink of death.
So, Oozy (as I privately called him) was actually a fairly friendly guy, and knew I had treats and would always come when I came to give my cows a little something. I felt guilty because his gut was really gross and scary.
Yesterday, I went out to feed my chickens the leftover cereal (dangit kids, why can't you pour JUST ENOUGH?!) and I saw Oozy laying on the ground, kicking up his legs rather frantically. I've seen horses do this to scratch their backs, but not cows. In my limited experience, this seemed very, very bad.
I jumped the pool ladder that I have going over the fence and went out there. Oozy looked very, very bad. I noticed the valve was gone out of his side, and his side looked awfully big. I hurried to call KC, but as I was leaving the voice mail, the steer stopped breathing.
KC was to the field within 5 minutes. He told me that the valve had fallen out a couple days ago. He'd been watching the steer closely, but so far, had been doing really well. A valve is kind of a last ditch effort because it really increases odds for infection, so he was hoping the calf had worked through whatever was causing the bloat and could be done with it. He'd fed him the night before, and had seemed fine then. When I was consulting with Dr. Google, DVM, it sounds like bloat can kill within 15 minutes, so it can come on awfully fast.
I felt so terrible! It's sad to see an animal die regardless. But, to see an expensive animal die, especially one in which the owner has put so much time, effort and emotion into fixing was even worse. Also, the hassle involved has got to be tough too- I'd guess Oozy was over 500 lbs. That's not exactly a simple disposal, like a goldfish.
Anyone who says animals don't understand death or have feelings just needs to be around when an animal die. Oozy was definitely scared and in pain. After he died, Tbone came over to see what was going on, and he definitely seemed upset by the fact that his big buddy was down and not acting right.