My Generation

Well, We've Never Seen that Before

We're not going to make any vet med journals, but the deformed calf that arrived Saturday definitely taught us a new phrase: schistosomas reflexus.

Note: this blog includes photos that may be graphic in nature.

I mentioned earlier this week that we had a deformed calf born on our farm over the weekend. The first word came as the kids, our babysitter niece and I were waiting to hear what was up with the calving situation. I called my mother-in-law, who reported that my father-in-law said they were doing a C-section because the calf was “inside out.”

That really didn’t make any sense to me, at least until I saw it. Then, it struck me as the perfect description.

Also, apologies for the poor photographs. It was dark, it was cold, I was shooting in the light of the tractor headlights and I had three small children waiting and asking 4.6 million questions. And, my husband kept telling me to move because I was blocking the light. Oops – sorry, Dr. Barkley!

The official term is schistosomas reflexus. Essentially, the body cavity fails to form around the calf’s organs. The calf sort of folds back on itself, kind of like a bat, and the legs and head all point in the same direction. The leg joints are fused. For his part, John knew he had a problem when he reached in to pull the calf and felt its spine. Time to call the professionals.

I can say, in 34 years in the cattle business, I’ve not seen a deformed calf like this. The veterinarian who came out to the farm confirms it’s a rarity, noting he’s only seen two or three in his career. Another vet in his office adds that it’s more typically found in
Holsteins, and fairly rare in beef cattle. I did a Google search last night and sure enough, most photos were of Holstein calves.


Schistosomas reflexus is considered a congenital defect, rather than a hereditary one, which is to say some fluke occurred in the gestational building process. Hereditary defects are genetic and are passed down through the genetic pool. So that’s a relief. It also means it’s not TH or PHA

Here’s hoping this is the most “exciting” point of the 2011 calving season. It can only get better from here, right?

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