Celebrate Hay

Today, I celebrate hay.


These are some of our calves.  To the far right, you can see the edge of a large round bale of hay.  Dave had just dropped it there with the tractor. And you can see my arm where I am gathering up baling twine. The calves are “helping.”

After this photo was made, and after all the twine was gone, we put a large metal hay ring over the hay so they can’t walk on it, have a nap on it, pee on it and generally destroy it.

And that picture takes me to this story, which occurred in 2013.

culpritI’m not sure which of the two Jersey calves in this photo is the wayward boy, but it was one of them.  The black Angus calf, named “Blackie,” was innocent.

One night, about two days after this picture was made, one of those boys got part way through his bottle and began to choke.  Dave was feeding him, yelled at me for help, I came running, and by the time I got there, the calf was staggering around, quite clearly suffocating.

He went down, we dragged him out of his poorly lit stall into the main breezeway of the barn on the concrete and I called Jason (our dairy farm manager mentor).  Jason said he’d be right there and I remember telling him that I didn’t think the calf would be alive when he got there.

We did everything we could think to do. We repositioned him. We pounded on his chest. At this point, we thought that he’d choked on the milk, and got some into his lungs. I was ready to attempt CPR, although I had no idea how to do that on a calf (their mouth and nose are collectively big).

Just when we were convinced he was going to die, he coughed a little and that made it easier for him to breathe.  He went from getting almost no air, to getting a bit more.  He still was in terrible shape, but he wasn’t dead.

Jason arrived. We still had no idea what was wrong with him and were going on the assumption that he had inhaled milk.  Jason grabbed his hind legs and hoisted him upside down (look in that photo at the size of that calf—Jason is a strong guy).  He held him that way by stepping up on the gate nearby and then shook him, attempting to drain milk out of his lungs.

After a bit, he let him down and the calf stood on his own, still having difficulty breathing, but not in the dire shape he’d been in a few minutes earlier.

Jason finally decided to give him some penicillin, thinking he would almost certainly develop pneumonia. While he was getting that, the calf began coughing again and I saw a pink thing in his mouth. I had no idea what it was, but grabbed his head, forced his mouth open, caught the pink thing and pulled gently.

I dragged it out. It seemed like it kept coming forever.

strangleAnd there it is, with a glove for size contrast.

Baling twine.

The tangled ball at the end was obviously blocking his trachea and almost killed him. He was breathing through that mess.

He gave one last cough and then began yelling at me because he wanted to finish his bottle. We were all cheering and laughing and happy as clams. He was oblivious.

That calf went on to adulthood, was sold and I have no idea what happened to him then. (Nearly all our calves remain intact as bulls.)

Since then, we are fanatical about baling twine.  It all gets removed and disposed of where idiot calves can’t eat it.

And the moral of this story is this:  when a calf or a child or an adult or a puppy is choking and you don’t know why, or even if you do think you know why, open their mouth and look. You might see baling twine, or a little part to a toy, or a French fry.

Nurses know this. We are taught it. We practice it when we do CPR and emergency care training. And hell, I was a recovery room nurse. I checked patients for open airways professionally for years.  I know this stuff.

And I just neglected to look because we thought we knew what the problem was. We assumed he’d inhaled milk.

Don’t assume.


A life may depend on it.






8 thoughts on “Celebrate Hay”

  1. Anothet reason to be fanatical about removing baling twine is that it can wrap around an animal’s foot or hoof & it is like a snare. If they panic (& many do) they’ll fight & can inflict horrifying injuries on themselves while struggling to get away. I prefer that my round bales are in net mesh rather than twine because it’s less likely to hide under one edge & escape notice. For square bales it’s easy to remove the twine or wire holding it together. 120 pound square bales of alfalfa are wonderful things but wire cutters are needed. At least the ones we got from Ontario, Canada one year. Awesome hay.

    Yeah – always look. A dog could be choking on rawhide, a kid on a plum pit, etc. Or a greedy calf on a bolus of twine. I can readily imagine your panic & your relief.


  2. When one of our kids was about 7 months old he swallowed a penny. We didn’t know he swallowed a penny, in fact we didn’t know he swallowed anything. He was playing happily on the floor one minute and struggling to breathe a few moments later. I was a young mom and had turned by back for a second. I grabbed him quickly and rushed him to the hospital. I would have called 911 but the hospital was around the corner. By the time we got there he was breathing normally and the ER docs and nurse just assumed I was an overreacting young mom. They gave him a once over but said he was fine and had no idea why he had stopped breathing. We didn’t have a concerned doctor or nurse to delve any further.

    Long story shorter 6 weeks later and many doctors visits later he was still having issues. He was crying and constantly coughing. I took him for yet another appointment and I told my husband I wasn’t leaving until they told me what was wrong with my baby. His pediatrician was on vacation so we saw another doctor in the practice. He insisted it was just croup, I knew croup, it wasn’t croup. I stood my ground. He decided to order a chest x-ray because the cough was deep and because it had been ongoing. And in the middle of his chest film was a small little circle, you could see a sliver on the side view. Two hours later my little one was going into surgery. They removed a penny. You could see on it where his esophogus was fusing to it. The doctor said had it not been removed that day he probably would have died within a couple days.

    We were lucky. I wish I would have insisted they checked him in the ER instead of letting them assume I was a paranoid young mother. I learned through this to not assume and to call in professional help, kind of like what you learned with your calf.

    And yes we still have the penny and x-rays and my son has a story to tell.

    Thanks for the cute calf pictures. I am sure they are a handful but they sure are adorable.


  3. I had a medium size mutt he was a good dog but a bit on the stupid side when it came to putting things in his mouth and trying to eat them the first 3 years of his life. 3 times I had to force a foreign object out of his airway. The first time included rescue breathing. Damn dog.
    Once he learned to only swallow food he was set to live for 13 more years. He was the bottle fed pup that was going back to my friend once he wss weaned. LMAO he stole our hearts and we kept him.

    It is scary even to a trained person when shit happens with animal. That baling twine was probably letting air pass enough to keep him alive. Then when he drank the bottle the twine did not let the milk go down instead pooling and cutting off what little air supply hr had.
    I drilled it in the girls head like was done with me baling twine id always a danger to animals and to make sure you had it all removed before feeding. We kept our hay in a shed away from the stable for that reason. All bales were cut open in the shed and twine picked up right away.


  4. I have been asked privately if there is some other meaning to this story beyond what it appears to be.

    Here’s the back story. It’s not what you think. 🙂

    Several years ago, a friend of mine (and he really is a good friend) called me “crabby.” He was kidding, but I got to thinking about that and decided that focusing on too much negative shit all the time simply isn’t good for anyone and that I would do something about it.

    I decided to find something every day to celebrate life, to be happy about, something positive.

    And I made these positive little things into memes. Here is the first one I did.


    I meant to do them every day, but damn that’s almost as hard as blogging. However, I did do a lot of them, and people loved them. One of the major reasons that I made my Facebook page totally public was because people kept trying to share my Celebrate memes and couldn’t because I was set to Friends Only.

    So I thought I might revive that. This piece was a take-off from one of my old ones (I did one about the twine and the calf right after it happened). There are a pile of them in the photos on my Facebook page if you want to look at them. However, they aren’t in a separate album, but scattered around, so it’s a kind of slog hunting them down.

    If this bores you silly, well, I’ll probably figure that out soon.

    I will assure everyone of one thing. This slight change of pace is not because of any court order or judge or that I’m scared of anything. I am not involved in any way with any of that and we’ll talk about it soon. Just not now.


  5. There are so many important and more relevant things to be said on this topic by people much smarter than I, but Sally, reading you talk about having a picture “made” brought back memories of my mama and daddy.

    That was a nice fuzzy little warm memory for me, thank you.?

    Also, airways are damn important! #breathing #unschoollife


  6. Lucky calf! Losing livestock is tragic. Glad you were able to save the little fellow. And I really like the Celebrate idea. I might to give that a try. It might pull in some light to a dark and scary time. ?


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