When it comes to nature, rarely do things go the way we humans believe they should. That very well could have been the case recently at the farm of Wade Schoneck, who raises dairy cattle south of Marion.
One month ago, the life of one of his newborn calves, a bull calf named Granite, hung in the balance. But through the ingenuity of a local veterinarian and a little luck, the calf is nearly back to normal.
Schoneck was out planting corn May 16 and happened to come in from the fields to find one of the herd calved a week early. While the mother tried to back out of the free stall, Schoneck surmised, she stepped on her calf’s leg, breaking it.
Typically when this happens to a calf, there is only one option – put the animal down, ending its suffering. However, due to the nature of the calf’s lineage, it was important to ensure the leg was set in a cast to try to save the animal’s life.
“His grandmother is an animal that I bought five years ago at the National Heifer Sale,” said Schoneck. “He has an AI (artificial insemination) contract. Depending on how his genomic numbers turn out, which we will find out through blood tests, the animal’s future could be worth thousands of dollars.”
Once Dr. Dirk Weber, from the United Veterinary Clinic, arrived to the scene he quickly learned that Granite’s radius and ulna bones had been broken. He applied the first of two casts the animal would sport. The first cast was placed over two small cable-like wires. As Schoneck and Dr. Weber explained, about a foot of extra cable was left hanging out, and then wrapped within the remaining layers of the cast to be set. It was done this way so when Dr. Weber replaced the cast, he needed only to remove the first few layers, then use the wire to essentially saw off the cast from the inside out.
“It’s nature, so it doesn’t always work out well,” said Dr. Weber. “But we got to it right away. It was a clean break and I was able to apposition the bones.”
Schoneck, who is a Jersey farmer along with his family and parents on their second-generation farm, said that given the breed’s fragility, it’s remarkable that Granite survived not only the broken leg, but the recovery as well.
“Everything is healed really good,” said Schoneck. “He didn’t have to have rods and pins, and he tears around like any calf, with his big ol’ club leg,” he added with a laugh.
Granite is expected to make a full recovery. For Dr. Weber, it’s nice to be part of the solution to help an animal thrive, rather than its demise, which obviously happens with frequency in his line of work.
“It’s quite rewarding,” said Dr. Weber of the success. “It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s just life.”