Petit Teton, a small farm near Boonville —
We had a severe fright mid-month when Juan came running to us to report that Kayak, one of our yaks, had given birth. We were unaware that she was pregnant. This is a love story with a happy ending; both mom and baby girl are healthy and frisky and have rejoined their buddies, Oreo and Zodyak. But getting them there was traumatic. Early on a Thursday morning, Juan came running in panting to tell us that he had discovered that Kay had given birth and was sitting on the ground while the baby stumbled about bleating. He thought the birth had occurred a number of hours earlier and indicated that something awful had happened. We all ran to her but stopped short in horror several yards from where she sat on the ground with what looked like her entire insides resting on the ground behind her. The after birth was on the ground nearby. None of us had ever seen such a sight and were unsure what body part we were witnessing. She could not stand and the baby could not nurse. It is critical that a newborn bovine receive the first of mother's milk which is called colostrum. It is needed in the first 24 hours to boost a baby bovine's immune system and keep her healthy.
There was a moment of panic then a flurry of phone calls to find help until we called a local vet whose services we had used many years back and who, luckily, was available to come out within a few hours. He wanted a description of the mass she had expelled and none of us was clear on what it looked like. It was as large as a giant beach ball, red, wet and scary.
Thankfully he arrived an hour or so later and we all rushed up the hill to see Kay. From the knobs of flesh on the outside of the mass the vet immediately knew it was a prolapse - her entire uterus was on the ground behind her. The fleshy knobs on it that identified it are the places where mom and baby's fluids are passed back and forth and which fall off after a birth, usually inside the animal, and are then absorbed by her body. All we could think was thank goodness Juan had discovered the birth, thank goodness it was a foggy cool morning, thank goodness the coyotes hadn't smelled blood, thank goodness the yellow jackets weren't out yet, thank goodness, thank goodness.
The doctor brought his truck as close as possible to the site and prepped his equipment then gave the three of us our assignments - bring a large plastic sheet, a clean wine bottle, and water. We were extremely lucky in her choice of birthing spot which was on a slight hill, in the open, and in an area we could separate from the other yaks. Kay received a numbing shot after which we swiveled her by pulling on her horns and pushing from behind so her head was downhill. Juan held her horns to keep her head steady and the doctor lifted the uterus so Steve and I could slip the large plastic sheet under it, then we each held a corner and lifted the very heavy mass up off the ground so the doctor could prepare to push. He first mixed a bucket of antiseptic which was poured over and rubbed over the uterus. Kneeling behind her he began massaging and pushing the mass back into her. Time stood still and the mass did not appear to be shrinking into her at all. The doc's arm muscles were bulging and he was sweating, Kay flicked her head probably from pain, we struggled to keep the plastic from slipping on the ground - we all strained mightily and had painful thoughts that this would never work. But after nearly an hour we noticed that the mass was shrinking, then, suddenly, it just disappeared into her. We all heaved a sigh, not yet of relief, but of having accomplished the first step.
The wine bottle was next. The vet pushed it inside her womb and up into the fallopian tubes one at a time to turn them right side out! He had me feel her side while he did this and sure enough, I could feel the butt of the bottle up against her hide. A handful of antibiotics were shoved in, I think on top of the womb, and he gave her a wake-up shot.
The whole operation took an hour and a half and we could have bought another yak for the cost. But we now had some hope that we had saved Kayak and our attention turned to trying to save baby. The vet first tried to tempt the baby with colostrum he squeezed from Kay's teats, but she refused it. After that we started making calls to find a farm or a vet with colostrum in the freezer. After many calls the only place we found was the Large Animal Hospital in Cotati more than an hour away. Steve drove down and returned with a gallon of just thawed colostrum which Juan and I immediately put a quart in a bottle to feed to her. She refused to suck so we retreated to using an ear syringe. An hour later we had filled her with half the quart and she promptly fell asleep. We returned later to feed her the remainder of the quart and again she slept. We had moved her to a fenced area close to the house.
The next day we continued to try to bottle feed her a milk combo that we had used on other yaks but she was not interested and we had to use the syringe. She looked too thin and listless. Meanwhile, Kay was still sitting and not eating. The vet said that if the uterus stayed in for a day it would stay in permanently but she needed to stand up since most bovines are healthier standing. She refused except to briefly get up and defecate which of course scared us to death because the pushing could cause trouble. But she did drink the water we left near her and seemed to nibble some of the hay we left. We noted that she wasn't grunting which is what healthy yaks do, using their grunts to call their young. There was not much more we could do but wait.
On day three Juan came running with wonderful news...Kay was up, eating and grunting for baby. We took the yaklet up to her and watched as they touched noses, grunted then baby fumbled under Kay until she found a teat and started to nurse. Whoooppeee!
We named her Cacha in honor of Juan whose last name is Cacho and without whom they both would have died. She is now a fat, fluffy, lively baby yak with beautiful brown and white coloring which puts her in the imperial yak category. A picture of her is attached. Kay, who has had many babies, is again the best of mama's with the possibility of another baby next year.