A bovine bond worth celebrating this Mother’s Day

Jay Allert touches the nose of one of his calves that was orphaned during a terminal c-section birth as he prepares to introduce it to a cow that lost a baby in a breech birth and was still producing milk, (College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren).

An orphaned calf and a cow that lost its baby due to a breech pregnancy are bonded on the farm this Mother’s Day, due in part to the skills and expertise of veterinarians at Washington State University.

After two complicated pregnancies at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the two are a perfect pair and their connection was instantaneous.

“I just put them together in the stall and she let her nurse,” said Jay Allert, owner of Allert Cattle Ranch near Rosalia. “She wanted to live, and she was willing to work with her.”

It started on Feb. 28 when the calf’s biological mom was pregnant and unable to walk due to severe lameness. WSU veterinarians performed a terminal Cesarean-section — the safest option to save the calf.

One week later, WSU veterinarians assisted another pregnant cow from Allert’s ranch, this time with a breech calf. While the veterinary team was unable to save that calf, with the oversight and care of WSU veterinarians, the mom pulled through.

Allert introduced the two shortly after in what was one of the quickest matches he’s witnessed.

“It was like it was her baby,” Allert said. “It doesn’t always happen like that. It totally depends on mom — some cows will do it and some cows won’t.”

“It was like it was her baby. It doesn’t always happen like that. It totally depends on mom — some cows will do it and some cows won’t.”

Jay Allert, owner
Allert Cattle Ranch

Inside the hospital, it was all hands on deck to ensure the health of Allert’s newborn calf.

Fourth-year veterinary student Braden Corigliano and other students used syringes to clear fluid from the calf’s airways. Since the mother was not there to clean and nurse her newborn, Corigliano and other veterinary students wiped down the calf and provided its first meal, a colostrum supplement — a nutrient-rich milk that prevents infection and is passed to calves and many other mammals in their first feeding.

The calf was then monitored through the night by WSU veterinary students.

“The whole experience with this calf was just really rewarding,” said Corigliano, who plans to work in a mixed practice after graduation. “Being able to have a successful procedure is always rewarding, but bringing life into the world is special, and although it was grim for the dam, I think we made the best of the situation.”

It wasn’t the first time Allert has visited the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

With a significant number of twins running in his operation, Allert has depended on WSU’s agricultural animal and theriogenology services for primary care of his animals since his operation began in 2005.

“They’re an amazing resource,” Allert said. “I have one of the finest veterinary hospitals within an hour of my ranch.”

This Mother’s Day and for at least the next two weeks, Allert will be the one playing mom. He will be bottle-feeding the calf due to low milk production in the foster cow.

It’s nothing new to Allert, who’s found himself bottle-feeding dozens of calves over the years.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Allert said. “It’s a little life and it’s my job to take care of it.”

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