Staff Column

Contracted tendons

This spring, I was gifted a tiny black Angus bull calf, and when I say “gifted” I mean he was given to me as a fighting chance of survival. The calf was born as a set of twins and momma just didn’t have enough room for the calves to grow correctly in utero. While the heifer calf was born healthy, the bull calf had a case of contracted tendons.

The producer, a friend of mine, ex- plained that he just didn’t have the time to care for such a special need and he asked me to take the calf and give him the best life I could. Anyone that per- sonally knows me, knows how much I love animals so of course I couldn’t re- fuse the opportunity for another one, even though I was unfamiliar with his disabilities.

Once I brought him home, it was ob- vious he needed a name. I had already 

successfully named my heif- ers after the cast of the old television sitcom, the Golden Girls, and of course, being a bull calf, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to name him Stanley Zbornak, or Stan, for short.

Stan was eager to accept his first bottle at home from my daughter while I as- sessed the situation.

Stan supported himself on his fet- locks, on both legs, and he was unable to stand with his hooves flat on the floor. His legs would bucket and quickly he would be kneeling around everywhere he went. As one could imagine, as Stan continued to grow, the amount of dis- comfort he would experience would be monumental.

Stan’s tendons didn’t have the space to stretch out properly in utero which caused him to be cramped up. While I had seen this deformity in horses, I had no personal experience dealing with the issue in cattle but I was determined to add to Stan’s quality of life.

I am pretty fortunate to have many friends in the cattle industry and most of them are full of resources, expertise and advice. The evening I brought Stan 

home I began researching contracted tendons and the possible treatments avail- able before I began phoning friends.

A close friend told me that Stan would probably never be 100% but both Stanley and I were determined to make it work.

Within a few days, with high hopes, Stan was given his first set of leg braces. These braces helped to hold his leg straight and they were hand-made from PVC pipe. Having enough knowledge of the anatomy of a calf, I realized brac- ing alone was not enough for Stan. Quickly, I developed a physical therapy plan which would hopefully help Stan develop the flexibility he would need to be mobile with the herd. Each morning and evening, Stan had therapy. I would stretch and massage each leg, paying special attention to the tendon which prevented Stan from bearing weight. Doing therapy also gave me a great op- portunity to check for sores left behind from the braces. It was also a great way

to check his progress each day.
Stan still struggled to get around.

Sometimes the braces would slip and

make a bigger problem for him. He had finally grown enough for an upgraded pair of braces.

The day his new braces arrived Stan was about a month old. He had never walked more than 10 feet at a time and he had never run. Once his braces were all secure, Stan ran for the first time. He ran around the yard like a normal calf, for the first time in his life. I was equal- ly as proud when Stan started trotting around as I was when my own children took their first steps. Stan still wasn’t 100%. He still required the braces to walk. The tendons in his legs were still too tight to allow Stan to flex his foot to the ground so we kept working.

Over the course of a few months, Stan improved to the point he was safe with the bigger cows. He is currently six months old and walks completely normal.

The moral of my whole story, some- times it takes just a little bit more


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