Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
It's a pretty safe bet that when those are the first words a farmer uses to greet the vet, it's going to be a doozie. Back when I was a vet student riding around with Dr. Dan, we responded to a call about a beef cow having trouble giving birth. Upon arriving at the farm we drove about a quarter mile across a plowed field in the vague direction we hoped our patient would be, finally seeing her at the bottom of a small hill. In addition to the cow, I couldn't help but notice a few people and a case of beer strategically positioned near the cow in front-row seats, getting primed up for the arrival of the evening's entertainment: The Vet. After stepping out of the truck, we were informed by a very free-spirited but slightly preoccupied man that indeed, as I already alluded to, he had never seen such a !@&*# mess. When he saw the halter in Dr. Dan's hand, we were assured that restraint would not be necessary, because there was no way the cow could get up ... he had already tried unsuccessfully to get her to stand. After following the staggering cow around the field three separate times over about a ten-minute period, we traded in the halter for a lasso.
Once the deceptively able-bodied cow was finally roped and caught up, we were able to return her to her original position lying on the grass, this time with the proper insurance in place that she wouldn't get back up and run away. What the farmer was referring to as being a !@&*# mess was then apparent: all that could be seen coming through the birth canal was the calf's tail! This was a true breech presentation, in contrast to a normal birth beginning with front hooves, followed by nose and head. To deliver this baby, it would be necessary to at least push its butt back in so that its hind legs could be the first parts coming out, in order for there to be enough room in the birth canal. The problem was, this cow curiously seemed to have very little room to allow pushing the calf back in, and from a student's perspective, it was beginning to look like Mission: Impossible. Nevertheless, my job was to hold chains, pulling on them when instructed, giving them slack at other times, while Dr. Dan worked shoulder-deep inside the laboring beast.
Five minutes and two or three "Ole and Lena" jokes later, the calf was delivered, and the underlying cause of the cow seeming to have very little room to work with was revealed ... she was carrying twins! The second calf also came out backwards, and after a very short time the once distressed cow was back up and licking off her new babies. The gallery was understandably amazed with Dr. Dan's delivery of not one, but two backward calves, followed promptly by returning the relieved cow to her feet and driving off into the sunset. It must have been the most fun any group of people ever had watching someone clean up a !@&*# mess!
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