There’s no good way to announce bad news other than to just say it: We lost our water buffalo calf. And it broke our hearts.
We knew something was wrong when the calf still hadn’t gotten to her feet an hour after birth. I called the vet, who said that unlike horses, cows can take up to two hours, and to give her a little more time to see if she would.
She didn’t, and soon it became apparent she had something wrong neurologically. The vet told us later she could have gotten stuck in the birth canal and been deprived of oxygen. We don’t think Lil Bit, the mom, could have eaten anything that would have caused the calf’s condition, as we had our pastures inspected by the noxious weed expert for the county before we put the animals on them, and they said they were safe. I called every water buffalo owner I could find and they all said they’d lost calves before and sometimes it just happens.
One of our neighbors, a farmer, put it bluntly: “If you have livestock, you’ll have dead stock.” Speaking of neighbors, we found out how wonderful ours were. As the word spread that the calf had arrived and was not well, folks dropped by and offered their help and their support. One woman made three separate trips out to our farm, bringing us a calf milk bottle and different sized nipples in the hope that one would work.
I will spare you all the heart-wrenching details, but Matt and I tried for two days to coax that calf to live, including tube feeding her around the clock because she could not nurse, and finally we had to agree with the vet that she was slipping away and that we had to let her go. So we had her humanely put to sleep.
We buried her in the side pasture, both of us crying while we did so.
And then we were left with a larger question: Do we still have the desire to continue with our plan for a small dairy? And the answer was no. So I called a farm on the mainland who’d had water buffalo before, and asked if they wanted Lil Bit and Betty. They did, and they came and got them last week. It’s a great home.
Now we have more time and energy to focus on the horses, especially since Neela is due in about three weeks. Not that I want to be paranoid now, but, I’m paranoid now. As she gets closer to delivery, I will be checking on her around the clock.
Matt built her a baby-proof foaling stall in the barn, and we have started putting her in it every night so that she can build up antibodies to that environment before the foal arrives. Yukon and Quill got extremely upset the first night they were separated from her, but after doing an inspection of her stall, Neela calmly ate her hay.
She knows. And I’m relying on that composure to see us through this birth.