The other morning I was checking on my cows and calves when I noticed that one of my calves was limping. I took a closer look and discovered that he was very swollen at the back of his right leg. I don’t know if the calf was just playing and broke it or a cow stepped on its leg or what exactly happened, but I knew I would have to try to do something to help this calf. She only had six days. I took the cow and calf out to the pen and decided to call my vet. He told me to bring her in and he would splint her, or I could do it myself.
There are times when you wouldn’t hesitate to have the vet come in and help care for injured or sick animals. But the cost is usually much more than what the animal will fetch if it is brought to market. So, after careful deliberation, I intend to splint this calf’s leg myself.
First, check for any punctures where the bone might have penetrated through the skin. If there is no puncture through the skin, it is likely a small fracture and will heal well. I was lucky and did not find any cuts or penetration through the skin. Carefully wrap the leg with a bandage, cloth, or foam. Make sure the wrap is tight enough that it doesn’t fall off, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.
Second, take a 1 ½” to 2″ PVC pipe and split it vertically into two pieces. This will act as the splint to hold the bone in place. Make sure the splint is slightly longer than your calf’s leg so that your calf has to walk on the splint instead of on your leg. Place the splint on the inside and outside of the leg to support the broken bone and use gray tape to wrap and secure the splint in place. The gray duct tape will last about three weeks, giving your calf leg time to heal.
I discovered that the calf began to walk on its three legs and lifted the injured leg off the ground. In addition, it is important that the cow and calf have a somewhat restricted area of movement. I kept the cow and calf in my pen with a stable for shelter. Make sure the area where you keep your injured animal is as clean as possible. There’s plenty of grass there for the mother cow and she can’t get too far away from her baby. I also supplemented the cow with grain and hay and made sure she had plenty of fresh water to drink.
It’s amazing how quickly a young animal can heal, so don’t despair if you see one of your calves with a serious injury. Just be ready to help the healing along the way. There is often a way to help the hatchling recover.
I’m happy to tell you that this young heifer is now running with the rest of my calves and they can’t even tell if she ever had a broken leg.