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Some years spring comes early, calving is uncomplicated. Other years, like this one, spring is nowhere around. Despite the cold temperatures the cows deliver calves. As a precaution we brought the cows into the barn yard where they could get under the shed roof . There's protection from freezing rain or snow here. Under the shed are straw bales and stalk bales for bedding. Round bales of hay fill the feeders under the roof and in the yard outside. Most of their days are spent in the open air, they come in freely when the weather is severe. The calves prefer the open air, too. Laying up against the stalk bales and hay feeders the calves are barely visible. On March 20, the first day of spring, the temperatures in north east Iowa struggled to get past the freezing mark. The calves all tucked themselves into the bedding. The cows standing over them added another layer of protection.
In the morning we noticed a lame calf. His leg was hanging at an awkward angle, loading him into the truck we took him to the vet's office. X-rays confirmed the hind leg was fractured clean through. Our best guess is that he was sleeping in the hay when one of the cows stepped on him. The vet offered two options; euthanize him or do nothing and let the leg hang. Discouraged, Keith started researching other options. He discovered a description for the Schroeder-Thomas Splint. Keith and I made careful measurements of the calf's leg. From this we drew a template, Keith welded steel rod exactly as presented in the instructions. The angles of the frame are critical for immobilizing the leg. The vet couldn't have been more supportive. He anesthetized the calf, reset the bone, and padded the splint and taped the leg into the frame. Throughout the procedure the cow bawled incessantly to her calf.
When the leg was set the calf and cow were closed into a quiet area under the shed. So far the calf is adjusting well. He's able to get up and down, nurse, and move (awkwardly at first but he's getting better). He's being supplemented with comfrey to help heal his bones, and Hypericum.
UPDATE: We've had several questions about the splint and how the calf responded. Here's a picture of a makeshift splint we made for him, to add extra support for the leg, after the Schroeder-Thomas Splint was removed. His leg was wrapped in vet wrap, with a wooden splint placed on the outside femur for support, then it was wrapped in duct tape to secure it. The splint/bandage was replaced every couple days. Eventually it was removed and he was able to keep pace with the herd.
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Tracie from Montana made a few changes to the splint. Here's a link to an updated version Thanks for sharing, Tracie!