I was mucking out Katika’s stall when I heard it. Cough, cough. I froze, listening. There it was again. Cough. It was my three-week-old bull calf, Opie, coughing in the lamb stall.
Calves are very fragile. It’s hard to imagine because they are so big and bouncy, and when they feel well they gambol down the barn aisle, kicking and bucking and scattering chickens. However if they catch pneumonia or start scouring with diarrhea they can go from lively to dead within hours.
I have never dealt with a seriously sick calf, nor do I wish to.
It has been a challenge to keep Opie warm and dry in our crazily swinging temperatures. I have dressed him in a homemade calf jacket. I have deliberately held off burning his horns or making a decision about castration because I did not want to stress his body further. Nevertheless he has developed a cough.
I tied Opie and took his temperature. 102.6°. Normal in calves ranges from 101° – 102.2°. My copy of Heather Smith Thomas’s wonderful Essential Guide to Calving says that anything over 102.5° indicates a sick calf.
There are two kinds of pneumonia, viral and bacterial. In calves, apparently they often first develop the viral form, which depletes them so thoroughly that the bacterial version moves in and finishes them off.
It seems possible that Opie is brewing a virus, but I decided to give him antibiotics just in case. There are a few different meds I could use. LA-200 is the veterinary equivalent of amoxycillin for children: the first line of defense but often inadequate. Baytril and Draxxin are stronger. And then there is Micotil, the strongest of all — but with the worrying side effect of being fatal to humans if accidently finger-stuck. Gosh, I think I’ll avoid that one.
I had both LA-200 and Baytril in my vet box. After reading the pluses and minuses I looked up the dose on the internet and gave Opie an injection of 2 ccs of Baytril. I’ll repeat it for three days and hope for the best.
The wind howled around the barn as the temperature rose to 40°. I mucked 1/4 of the deep bedding out of the sheep stall, favoring my bad shoulder. Opie watched me sleepily as I went to and fro, pushing the loaded wheelbarrow. By evening rain was falling in sheets.
I took the opportunity to fill the paddock water trough.