As we pulled up to the truck parked in the field, I kept my eyes peeled for our cow. The owners had called us because there had been calf feet dangling out of her rear end for most of the day. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and the herd was out in a large field. Our particular cow was hidden in a large thicket of trees. After a few minutes of looking, we found she had rejoined the herd.
Our next goal was to catch her. The only solution was to use our trusty dart gun. I had seen it used before but never actually got to try it myself. Today was my chance. We loaded it with a sedative dart and hopped in the truck. I was in the back seat with both windows rolled down ready to do a safari-like takedown. As we rolled up to the herd, I was able to spot her but wasn’t able to get a good shot at her rear leg or neck with all the other animals moving around. Every once in a while I had a short chance to take a shot but I was worried about hitting another animal so I waited. I eventually ended up on foot and had to climb into the owner’s ATV to catch up with our cow. She finally stopped on the driver’s side of the vehicle but because the owner was so big I couldn’t lay the rifle over the steering wheel to take a shot.
He told me this would be our last shot to get her before she ran into more trees so he turned towards her. I had a shot at her rear leg lined up but just before I pulled the trigger she moved. My dart missed behind her. If I had been aiming for her mid-flank I would have gotten her, but a dart into the abdomen wouldn’t have been good. While I was quite upset that I had missed, it ended up being easier because the owner then told us that he had a cattle chute that we could use. If I had hit her, she would have run down into a small pond or a small patch of woods, which would have made things difficult in the dark.
Once we got her into the chute, I was able to palpate her and determine that the calf was coming out in the correct way. After putting chains on the calf’s legs and applying pressure, I pulled out a live calf. The baby was given some of mom’s colostrum and then we were on our way. Getting to finally use the dart gun was awesome, and next time I won’t hesitate when I have the perfect shot lined up.