On the Farm - A Research Parallel

We are calving on the farm at the moment 

Like anything to do with kids, it brings a stretched emotional spectrum of highs and not so highs. Yesterday (Friday) was one of those days - well evenings actually. Just on dusk, I was doing a pasture check and noticed one cow with a feeding calf, acting distracted and flicking her tail. Pretty late to be bothered by flies I thought, so I wondered over to check it out. Oh no - she couple of hoofs sticking out and judging by the activity of her other calf, it had been like that for several hours. So with the last glimmers of sunlight fading away, I set up the yards, the gates and tried to coax mum and calf towards them. Not going to happen was the realisation 30 minutes later, so I rugby tackled the youngster and placed him in the ute and proceeded to walk the cow up on foot....

With the cow in the cattle crush, I conducted an internal (helpful physio skill), she was warm and moist but the calf was breech and big. Bugger. It was going to be a long haul. After 45 minutes of pulling, quiet conversations with the mosquitoes, massaging and resting (a.k.a. pacing) - all good physio skills, we birthed a large, dead, male calf. Not the best outcome, but mum was fine and she had another calf to care for, so I left her to 'clean up' the dead calf (helps with their placental ejection), that she had worked so hard with for the past 9 months + 45 mins.

The new day presented with a new problem. She was rejecting her first born calf and not letting it feed. This is really unusual as they will often walk off leaving the second born, having already bonded with the first. She must have bonded with it's smell during the night. With living twins, you can place vanilla on their snouts and the cow's, thereby confusing her sense of smell and allowing both calves to feed. With a dead twin, that wasn't an option.


What I have been told (n=1) is that you can skin the dead (bonded) calf and wrap the skin around the unbonded calf. Not exactly an RCT and all great in theory, but as the creator of the mirror box Vilayanur S. Ramachandran said, 'if I saw a pig fly, I wouldn't need a RCT to know that pigs can fly'.

METHOD: No time for a RCT here either, so I skinned the dead calf and using gaffer tape attached it to the other calf.

RESULTS: One slightly confused mum, but a very happy calf.

OUTCOME: After a few hours the skin was licked off the calf and they had bonded.

DISCUSSION: Being clinically successful is a combination of appreciating the research, knowing your options, agreeing on goals and applying the best solution for the case presenting in front of you.