One of my kids figured that after 60+ years in the school of hard knocks, I might just have some good advice I should pass along. So we'll update this page from time to time with tidbits, life's lessons, and free advice for you to do with what you wish.
Tips for Calving Problems
Over the years, we have occasionally had a cow with a prolapse of the vagina which happens when the cow's rumen is too full and it pushes the vagina out about the size of a baseball. This can be corrected by withholding feed and water for a couple of days. Then only feed and water sparingly so the rumen has a chance to stay partially empty and not put pressure on the vagina and uterus.
This may seem cruel but one year we had a cow with this problem and it was quite hot so I gave her an extra gallon of water. Lo and behold, the darn thing came out so I had to use a broom and push it back in. I learned my lesson and Paul said, "They can go without food and even water for a couple of days until the calf has grown more and then the cow will be okay." This incident gave me quite a scare since Paul was at a bull sale and I wouldn't have been able to sew her up myself.
An old country remedy or calving lore, especially for first-time heifers who might not claim their calves, is to withhold salt from them the last few days before they calf. When they calf, sprinkle some table salt or loose stock salt on the calf. It is natural for the mother to smell this strange thing that has suddenly come out of her belloy and will then touch the calf with her nose. When the cow does this, she smells the salt and starts licking the calf. This is the way natured has intended the bonding process to begin. Over the years, we have used many boxes of table salt. There are commercial applications to encourage the cow to take the calf but salt is cheaper and everyone has some on hand.
In the End
Cattle and other animals can overeat just like people do so sometimes they get bloated. Sometimes nature takes its course and sometimes it doesn't and the cow develops other problems from this condition. During the 2013 calving season, we had a pregnant cow that became bloated. A couple of days passed and natured didn't correct the problem. The cow laid down and didn't want to get up. Paul could tell she hadn't gone poop in several days because her hind end was dry. About the fourth day, we called the vet and he gave her mineral oil as a laxative. Normally, that would help but in this case, it didn't. The next option was a common remedy for bloated sheep. Paul got a butcher knife and stuck her in the side to release some of the pressure and gas. That only helped a little. Of course, a person shouldn't do any of these farm remedies themselves unless they know what they're doing. Otherwise, you could make matters worse. More than a week went by and nothing helped. By this time, the calf was probably dead or wouldn't survive even if she did eventually calf. The last resort is something we don't like doing. Paul gave her a shotgun bullet to between the eyes to put her out of her misery. Then he hauled the carcass out to a rock pile in the pasture where the fox would clean it to the bones.
Too Much Milk
In the Hereford breed, as well as most other breeds, an older cow can develop a condition called, "extended udder" or "pendulous bag" or "big teats." When this occurs, the udder becomes engorged and the teats fill so full that the calf can't get its mouth around the teat. When it tries to suckle, the teat slides away and after many tries, the calf will give up if human intervention isn't done.
Our method of treating this condition is to put the cow in a small pen and give her only limited amounts of feed and water for a couple of days. We let the calf suck a couple of times a day and maybe even put it up to the udder to help get the teat in its mouth to suck. Then we let the calf out in another pen for a few hours. This deprives the cow of excess feed and water and thus limits the milk production until the calf is more aggressive and can push on the udder better.
If the cow still seems to have too much milk for the calf to suck it all out, we resort to milking some out by hand. This works with most cows because they actually seem to like the relief it gives them. If the cow gets a bit hostile, a head gate or stanchion may be needed. Since this condition usually happens with older cows, they aren't too aggressive.
A Brood Cow's Diet
During the winter and nearing spring, it is easy to forget how critical it is to supplement a brood cow's diet. A good supplement is vital to ensure the re-breeding of the cows. Second-calf heifers need extra feed at this time also. They are still growing plus nursing a calf and then trying to cycle to re-bred.
If you have to spike a calf onto a cow, we learned a new technique one spring. Put some good old-fashioned Vicks (mentholatum works too) on the dead calf. Also spread some on the calf to be spiked and if possible, some on the cow's nose too. The smell will be the same and after she smells the new calf, it usually doesn't take long for her to accept the new calf. Paul also likes to let the cow fill up with milk for one feeding after losing her calf. She is more apt to take the relief at that time than if you try to forcer her to take a calf too soon.
If a calf is slow in getting up, try feeding him some colostrum, preferably from its dam. If it's not possible to milk her, use formulated dry colostrum and get it into the calf as soon as possible. If you have to tube it, be careful not to get the fluid into its lungs. A calf bottle with a larger hole works pretty good and usually after the calf gets about a quart of milk in him, he will try to get up and nurse on his own.
Predicting the Weather
Living in North Dakota almost all of my life, the weather has played a big factor in what we did on a daily basis. In the summer, you have to watch out for severe thunder and lightning storms and sometimes tornadoes. In the winter if you're not prepared, you'll end up losing some livestock or your water supply will freeze up.
As far back as I can remember, there were always things in nature that we'd study to see what kind of winter we were going to have. Some of these practices date back to Indian days but many of them are more reliable than the high-tech meteorologists today. When it comes right down to it, no one can predict the weather all the time but by using some of these old traditions, we didn't get caught with our pants down too many years.
Onion skins and corn husks grow this and hard if it is going to be a cold winter. This is to protect the center of the onion which is the part that grows the next spring or the cob of the corn which protects a portion of the corn seeds from freezing completely and thus ensures a supply of seed for the coming year. As a recent story about the Southwestern tribes of Indians showed, some of their corn is still viable seed after several hundred years as it was in a dry place and hadn't started to sprout.
We have used a pig spleen to predict six months of weather. The part of the spleen that is attached to the liver is for the first month, whether it is in October, November or later in the year. The widest part, usually about 2 inches, will be normal weather and the thickness usually about one-fourth inch will be the amount of rainfall or snow. Some years when it has been very cold, the spleen or as the old timers called it "the winter" will be very wide, maybe 4 inches and about one-half inch thick, and maybe 7-8 inches long. In the winter of 1996-97, we had three spleens to compare. They were about 8 inches long and 3-4 inches wide and one-half inch thick and we had a lots of snow and it was very cold. They also had some marked indentations on each one like a curvy woman's body, which also corresponded to the several snow storms we had that year.
You might want to try this experiment to forecast the weather. Cut a big onion into twelve equal slices on December 31 and place them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle a little sale on each slice and leave the sheet on the counter overnight. The first month will be the top of the onion and so on to the bottom, which will be December. In the morning, the slices that have moisture on them will be the wet months and the dry slices will be the dry months or little precipitation. Of course, this won't work with store bought onions unless you know the onions were grown in your vicinity. And if the crop was grown under intense irrigation, the outcome won't be accurate.
If you have Goldenrod flowers growing, the first blooming in the fall foretells the first frost usually six weeks down the road.
Flying ants come to North Dakota and northern states about six weeks befor heavy frost.