Peggy – Last Phase of Healing

On Wednesday, Peggy was 21 days old and had been unable to walk normally for 19 1/2 days of her young life. Dr Comyn made one more trip to the farm to remove the cast. In spite of the damaged leg, Peggy has thrived and was definitely a lot more heifer to lift than when the first cast went on.

With the cast removed, her right rear leg was thinner and weaker than normal and the left leg was slightly bowed from compensating and hauling the cast around.

The repair of the break was successful but both the bone and surrounding leg muscles were too weak for immediate, unlimited use. Peggy and Ruby, her mom, had to remain in the small area of the corral until the leg strengthen.

In the confines of the small end of the corral, Peggy was able to slowly and carefully exercise the leg.

With a cow and calf occupying the corral, daily life was modified for some of us. Sundance was a bit sad about his run-in being temporarily converted to a sick bay, but he had three cows, Pippie, Lucy and Heidi in the Front field to keep him company. Pippie was in the Front field so I could work on building up her condition, Lucy and Heidi were there as the last two cows expecting a calf.

I quickly discovered that scooping cow pies twice a day was a lot more work than cleaning up horse poop. Each of Ruby’s pies weighed so much that the tines on my fork bent with the effort. Loaded with a day’s worth of pies, the ridiculously heavy wheelbarrow took all of my effort to wheel to the pile and dump. Of course, Ruby was very unhappy at being alone in the corral. Being one of the herd leaders, Ruby began to occasionally moo loudly, letting everyone on the farm know about her displeasure at the situation. One night, she kept moo’ing well passed 11pm and I worried something was wrong. Throwing on a coat and boots, I grabbed a flashlight to go check on her and Peggy. Thankfully, everything was fine. Ruby was just irritated.

Four days after her cast was removed, Peggy’s leg was greatly improved so I let her and Ruby have access to the entire corral. Peggy loved running around and was putting weight on the leg, improving her muscle tone daily. I fed Ruby a little grain every day to help make her confinement a little easier.

With a healing heifer, Ruby became even more of a protective mama. Several times when I was snapping pics or video tapping Peggy, Ruby would get between us and move me out of the way. She is a very good mama!

This was a tough circumstance from the start. When I saw the broken leg, I knew my choice was between saving the calf but depleting her market value or putting her down and cutting my losses. A vet’s expertise is invaluable at times like this but also comes at a cost. Dr Comyn did a fantastic job restoring Peggy to a healthy, happy heifer who will lead a normal life and potentially give birth to many of her own calves.

I chose to save the calf.

Peggy’s Second Cast

Ten days ago, Ruby’s little heifer, now known as Peggy, had her right rear leg broken. On Monday, Dr Comyn returned to the farm to remove the first cast and put on a replacement. Calves grow so quickly that the first cast was already too small.

Peggy with her first cast

About an hour before the vet was scheduled to arrive, Bill and I began the process of separating Ruby and Peggy from the herd and getting them up to the corral. Neither large or small bovine was pleased about heading back to the corral, but thankfully both cooperated enough that the effort didn’t take too long to accomplish. Of course, the oldest bull calf in the herd decided to tag along making the task a bit more complex. Hazel, his mama, didn’t miss him at all during the 20 minutes he spent cavorting in the corral and was only slightly curious when he finally reappeared in the field.

Looking longingly at the exit gate.

When Dr Comyn arrived, we move Ruby into the crowding pen so that we could work with Peggy and not worry about a protective mama. After giving Peggy an injection of Ketamine to sedate her, Dr Comyn began work on removing the first cast. This morning, Peggy took up a lot more space on the tailgate than she had 10 days ago.

The outer wraps of the first cast were cutaway, exposing the set of wires that Dr Comyn had placed between the cotton layer and the hard cast.

We set Peggy on the ground for better stability, and then Dr Comyn secured each end of one wire to a handle. Sawing the wire back and forth, a clean cut was made through one side of the cast. Then we flipped Peggy over, and the process was repeated using the second wire on the opposite side of the cast.

We lifted Peggy back up on the tailgate and the cast easily peeled off, exposing the soft cotton padding and cotton sleeve underneath. When everything had been removed, Dr Comyn examined the broken area on Peggy’s leg. Her injured leg was a lot thinner than a normal leg and had developed a callous that could be felt along the break line.

And then the process of casting the leg was repeated. Pull on a new sock, add a couple rolls of soft cotton, enclose 2 wires one each side of the leg, add two rolls of wet cast, add a rubber glove on the hoof for water proofing, and finally add a roll of adhesive cloth bandage for extra protection.

Peggy will be back in the field for the next 10 days, walking through grass, rain puddles and mud, cow pies and horse poop. This cast has to hold up and help her leg heal as she follows mama to the water trough, to the shade tree, as she nurses and when she plays with the other calves.

We laid Peggy in the corral on a bed of hay to sleep off the effects of the sedative. As soon as she was awake enough to stand, I let her mama back in with her. Before noon, the pair was back in the field with the herd.

Drowsy heifer.

The next morning, Peggy was fully recovered and comfortable with her new cast. She easily kept up with her mama and all of the other calves in the field.

Peggy sporting cast #2

Next week, the cast will be removed and then Peggy with her Mama will spend a week or so sequestered in the corral while her leg gains strength and rebuilds muscle and bone.