I had a strange week last week, taking some time off work to get some much needed farming done it was a week that began with optimism and ended in tragedy. With two ladies in the maternity ward I was looking forward to welcoming two new calves to the farm. But on Wednesday disaster struck and a condition I had never heard of before occurred.
The cow a good stalwart on the farm went into labour in the early morning but soon it became apparent that something was clearly wrong. The calf seemed to be caught at the shoulders and try as we might with the jack it was obvious he was not going to be born the traditional way.
The cow herself was heavy in calf, heavier than we had ever seen her. We had thought that it was twins or fluid but alas that was not the case.
We called our vet and on inspection she announced it would be a section that something was very wrong and that it might be a suspected case of waterbelly.
Waterbelly is a rare genetic defect found in many mammals where the calves are born with no anus or may have parts of their guts blocked. The condition prevents the calf from passing any fluids and so retains them and becomes larger in size.
Many waterbelly calves are born normally and die soon after but in our case the calf had retained fluids for a long time and so a section was the only option to remove him.
As can be understood the section operation was a much bigger undertaking than usual and our local vet had to call in extra help to assist her. The operation did remove the calf in the end who was bloated and full of fluid. The calf was dead on arrival. However that was only the start of our problems with such a large section needed the cow was in a critical condition.
Counting our losses we surmised if the cow lived it wouldn’t be so bad because the likelihood of the condition happening a second time were very rare.
However death wasn’t finished on our farm last week and the sickly cow passed at the weekend. Despite the best of care and steady hand from our vet the operation had proved too much for the gentle animal. She passed on Saturday.
A week ago I’d never heard of waterbelly and now it’s taken two animals from us. Farming is never the same and as my father remarked it was a new one on him. That’s farming as they say even when it’s a hard blow.