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Calf Doing Fine Despite Leg Loss
"Lucky" wasn't born with that name, but it describes her life thus far. Lucky is a Holstein calf, born last Feb. 1 on the Glenn Ruble farm near Albert Lea, Minn. She was born normal, but sustained an injury to her front leg when she was only two days old.
"I called the veterinarian right away, and we tried to save the leg, but the tissue damage was very severe," Glenn's son, Doug, said. "The leg continued to decay, even after much treatment, and was finally beyond repair."
But Lucky still fought on. She used her crippled leg as a prop for three weeks, even though she could not bend it at all.
Finally, the veterinarian, Dr. Al Mendenhall, asked if he could use Lucky to gain knowledge for future reference. "I'd seen lots of three-legged dogs and cats, but never a calf. It's very seldom a calf sustains an injury serious enough to remove its leg. I thought the calf had a good chance to survive and I wanted to see how she would progress with only three legs," he said.
Doug said, "We considered the calf's pedigree, which wasn't strong, and the hopelessness of the situation, and agreed to let him experiment with her."
The decision was made to amputate the calf's leg at the shoulder to see if she would survive and how she would function if she did. Lucky was given an injection to make her unconscious, and the veterinarian made an incision high on her shoulder. Next, he removed the entire leg except for a very small amount of bone. Finally, he pulled the muscle down and over the bone to make a pad for the bone. Then he stitched it closed.
Again, Lucky's will to live came through. The very same night as the operation, she was able to stand. She needed a little help to get up, but she ate normally.
"It was really amazing," Doug said. "She never lost her appetite throughout the whole ordeal."
Lucky continued to need help getting up for a few days, but within a week of the surgery she was able to get up alone.
How can a fairly large animal, such as a calf, get up with only one front leg? "She gets up on her back legs first, leans way back and jerks her front end up," Doug explained.
Lucky doesn't do much jumping and kicking, but she is able to move quite fast. Her remaining front leg bows out somewhat and the pastern shows a little strain, but so far it hasn't affected her movement, he added.
The Rubles hope to keep Lucky as long as possible, and the veterinarian is keeping a close watch on her progress.

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1984 - Volume #8, Issue #5