Though some would call her a hard luck cow, Rishira was one of the good ones.
|Rishira in her prime.|
Rishira produced a good calf every year until she was fifteen years old, but not without her share of adventures. When she was pregnant with her fourth calf she almost died. She was with the rest of the herd on our upper place in early December, after we brought them down from our 320-acre pasture when the grass snowed under. We were feeding hay because the grass in the fields was also snow-covered, and one day we noticed she was off by herself and didn’t want to come to the hay. The sides of her face were swollen.
She was dull and miserable so we eased her down through the field to the little corral where we had a loading chute. We got our truck and hauled her home. There, we put her in our chute and took her temperature. It was 107 degrees! So we gave her Banamine to help reduce fever and inflammation, and called one of our vets, Jeff Hoffman, who came to examine her. Symptoms and circumstances pointed toward a clostridial infection, possibly entering her mouth and causing the swelling of her face. The cows had been eating protein supplements and had pushed a couple of the nearly empty tubs down into the bushes and rosebriars, where there were some broken, sharp sticks in and around the tubs. Rishira may have jammed a stick into her mouth while trying to eat the last of the supplement, opening the way for infection.
The vet gave her a high dose of penicillin (which we repeated on subsequent days for awhile) that would be effective against any clostridial infection, but we were concerned for her unborn baby. A fever that high generally kills the fetus. We hoped we’d reduced Rishira’s fever in time and that she wouldn’t abort her calf. We treated her for several weeks, and kept her in the barn during bad weather. The sides of her face eventually peeled, then healed.
|Rishira’s swollen face|
A few years later, Rishira’s curiosity took her too close to a sluggish porcupine wandering through the pasture. She probably mistook it for a dog, which she hated, and likely biffed it with her head. As a result, she had a face full of porcupine quills. We had to bring her in from the field, restrain her in the headcatch by the barn, and pull all the quills out with pliers.
|Lynn pulls quills from Rishira’s face|
|Peggy Sue with her cast on|
In 2009, at age thirteen, Rishira experienced uterine torsion while calving (an adventure I wrote about on my blog).
|Rishira being stitched back up after her torsion of the uterus|
Heather Smith Thomas raises horses and cattle on her family ranch in Salmon, Idaho. She writes for numerous horse magazines and is the author of several books on horses and cattle farming, including Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, Storey’s Guide to Training Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, Essential Guide to Calving, and The Cattle Health Handbook. She blogs at heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com. Her newest book, Horse Tales: True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, published by The Frontier Project, Inc., is now available.