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home : columns : ron kuecker July 21, 2017

5/3/2017 2:41:00 PM
The dreaded transverse dorsal birth presentation

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

Most of the time, when the animal doctor son of mine in Marshall calls during the day, it's about some type of wildlife or other outdoor observation. Like last week, midweek, when he spotted a nice pod of blue-winged teal feeding on School Grove Lake northeast of Marshall.
We both agreed they had most likely found a new hatch or early molting crustaceans in the warming lake waters. The wind had blown them down to the south end where the blue-winged teal were busy siphoning them out of the water with a very efficient tool, their highly adapted bill.
Crustaceans and many of their closely related insect cousins are the earths greatest convertors of plant life to food for animals. The most well-known example of that is the giant blue whale that sifts tons of krill through its baleen and filters them out to be ingested to provide nutrition for the earths largest mammal.
The blue-winged teal and its closely related species, the shoveler duck, are now present in our marshes bringing up the rear as our last migrating waterfowl. They arrive late simply because it takes warming waters to produce the high protein invertebrates needed for their nesting.
But as is occasionally said and certainly applies here, I stray from the headlines.
The day before Scott's blue-winged teal call he had also called me and told of a very tough obstetrical case he had just finished. Thought you might enjoy hearing his description and my reminiscence.
The life of a big animal doctor is quite different from that of a small animal doctor. Many times cow doctors come upon really difficult situations that doggy doctors only hear about in vet school or the lounge at a state convention. And, they have to face them alone with no trained assistants.
Such is the case of the dreaded transverse dorsal presentation of a calf during the birthing process. Unless you've put your arm into the confined space of a bovine birth canal it's hard to fully realize the difficult situation you find yourself.
That day Scott had been called to the farm/ranch of Danny DeLange to check out a big, red Angus cow that seemed in trouble delivering her calf. Restraint of the angry Angus wasn't easy but they accomplished it and then came the "pelvic exam"!
The delivery
As Scott slid his hand through the partially dilated cervix and into the uterus I'm guessing his heart sank. The only part of the calf presented was the back. The head and front legs were to one side and the back legs to the other. The dreaded "cross ways" calf couldn't get out unless it was first converted to a normal position in the uterus.
But he couldn't move it left or right far enough to deliver it lengthwise and as he explored further he found out why.
There was a twin hiding behind the first calf, both estimated at 80 to 85 pounds.
Finally he concluded the best approach would be to deliver that second of the twins first, pulling it up over his cross wise "womb mate". Which he did. Then there was room to reposition the first calf and deliver it in a normal position.
When Scott called me the first part of the afternoon, after showering and a change of clothes, before seeing a few terriers and tom cats back at the clinic, he commented to me that he understood my early retirement much better with each passing year. And the likelihood of running into another dorsal, transverse birthing with a twin hiding behind it. I told him, there are few veterinarians, any more, that could do what you just did. Hope it helped.
Fat robins
If the American robins, our largest thrush, seem a bit plumper this year it is probably true. The early spring, now dragging on, presented them with an early emergence of earthworms. The first rain of spring brought hundreds of the dirt eaters to the surface. Not only were their holes all over my lawn they covered the streets of our part of Windom and I am sure, most of town.
Most of the worms were night crawlers rather than the usual, so-called, angleworm we find when digging in our gardens. That is, if you haven't dumped a bunch of insecticide onto your garden or lawn which can kill those ground worms as well as what you are targeting.
Angleworms were so-named, in case you are wondering, because they were used so regularly for angling (fishing). If you haven't ever dug up angleworms and put them in a coffee can of dirt and grass and gone fishing with them, your childhood was not complete.
Night crawlers, sometimes called rain worms, are much bigger than angleworms. They can often be picked off the street or in the grass, at night, using a flashlight. They make better bait in terms of number of bites but it seems to me, the smaller worm, threaded carefully on a long-shanked, fine hook results in more catches, especially if you're after big, yellow bellied bullheads from cold water in early spring.
Don't knock bullhead meat until you've tried it.
I attended the Okabena bullhead feed late winter. I was watching an afternoon basketball game and got there an hour and a half after they started serving. They had to scrape the bottoms of the serving dishes to find a few remaining taystees for me.

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