If you’re from around here, you probably know that we’re quickly approaching our busiest time of year. But if you’re new to our page, or new to the area, let me quick explain: its baby season!
Most people, us included, tend to focus on just the calving part, but it’s also lambing, farrowing, and kidding seasons too. Lambing is baby lambs from ewes (mama sheep). Farrowing is baby piglets from sows (mama pigs). And kidding is baby goats from nannies (mama goats). Although yes, 90% of our work from now until May-ish, is centered around cows and calves, we do care for other species as well. Mostly because there is greater volume of cattle producers than other species in our area, but also because pigs, goats, and sheep don’t tend to have near the birthing issues as cattle do, or issues that the owners can’t solve themselves.
Issues we see for all species this time of year are prolapses, birthing complications, broken limbs, and being “down”. Being “down” can come from nutrition issues, heavy pregnancies or injuries of some form. It isn’t necessarily a death sentence, but it is something that should be treated with urgency. When an animal is down and cannot get up, your veterinarian should be called. With standard treatments, your animal should make progress in 24 hours. If not, diagnostic testing should be done to determine an exact cause, and a plan should be developed with your veterinarian.
Broken limbs happen, usually due to overcrowding in a pen, aggressive moms, or just pure accidents. Most of the time they can be fixed, with lower limb fractures having the best outcome. Lower limb fractures can be set with a cast and most animals respond with little to no issues and heal in 3-4 weeks. Upper limb factures is where it gets difficult. Because animals have so much muscle mass on the upper part of their legs, you can’t really properly cast them like a lower limb. There are options for treatment though, but they take patience and hard work from the owner.
Prolapses, I’ll just say it, they’re the worst. In a female animal, there are 3 different types of prolapses. Rectal, vaginal, and uterine. Their names basically say it all, but a prolapse is when a part or organ of the body is displaced from its normal position. Rectal and vaginal prolapses should be treated with urgency but it is not an emergency. Those animals should not be kept in the herd as breeding stock for the next season. Animals that rectally or vaginally prolapse will reoccur again and they can be hereditary. Uterine prolapses on the other hand are emergencies and should be fixed immediately. As long as they are treated quickly, cleanly and carefully, the animal should recover uneventfully. Uterine prolapses are not likely to reoccur, and as long as the animal breeds back there is no reason to cull from the herd.
There are a variety of birthing issues that come with livestock. This is called dystocia. Dystocia is considered any birth that needs assistance or results in a weakened or dead baby. Normal presentation for birth is right side up with head and fore limbs extended into the pelvic canal. Any other position that involves a head back or a leg back is abnormal. Abnormal positions can be head back, leg(s) back, head between forelegs, breech, backwards, and sometimes twins. Dystocia is also caused by lack of uterine contractions or uterine fatigue, the causes of which are not completely understood. Other birthing issues are baby is too large, or moms pelvic size is too small, or both, almost always resulting in a C-section. And lastly, issues can be of genetic abnormalities which don’t usually result in a live outcome.
This time of year can be outrageously stressful for animals, producers, and veterinarians (and their families). We truly do enjoy helping bring babies into the world, but please remember to be patient and kind to everyone involved! Happy calving/lambing/farrowing/kidding seasons!