We had our first loss on the smallholding earlier today when our calf Willow finally succumbed to the infection she has been fighting for 9 days. Speaking to our vet this afternoon, rotavirus is the most likely culprit. He says that it is currently prevalent in the area and many folk are seeing losses amongst newborn calves.
Willow seemed jaded the day we unloaded her from the trailer, so she was most likely already infected and we’ve been fighting an uphill battle since then. For a week now, we have been tube feeding several times a day, alternating between calf milk and electrolytes in an effort to keep her hydration and nourishment up. Latterly, we have also been administering injections of antibiotics, penicillin and pain killers to get the virus under control and keep her comfortable.
Wendy and Maisie have been the mainstays of the care effort, demonstrating veterinary care skills that belie their relative inexperience with such things. It has been a sad but salutory experience for us all, forcing us to fast-track our ‘on the job’ learning about general animal welfare and hygiene regimens, as well as more specific stuff like giving subcutaneous injections to cows.
Before sunrise one morning last week, I carried Willow to the shed in the back paddock to get her out of the storm that was blowing through. As I did, it dawned on me that this was something that people have been doing since they first domesticated animals and I more fully appreciated the privilege and responsibilities that come with stewardship.
It feels like we have a lot to learn, though are told that we did everything right and the battle may have been lost before it began. Undoubtedly more calves will follow but we’ll always regret losing our first so quickly.
Ironically, it may well be rotavirus (or a campylobactor infection) that has kept me in bed or the bathroom since last Wednesday. Hopefully, the meds and the electrolytes will kick in soon – especially as I’m meant to be enjoying a week’s leave starting today.
To end on a brighter note, we have new tenants – a nice couple who moved into the cottage last Friday and are slowly settling in.