Larger-than-life cows have recently captured the world’s attention, but we’re ready to shift the focus to the other end of the scale. Meet Lil’ Bill, a mini moo whose uplifting story of determination is just what the doctor ordered.
Lil’ Bill made his entrance on October 27, weighing just 7.8 pounds — far outside the normal 50- to 80-pound range for calves. His owners immediately took him to experts at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU-CVM) in Starkville, Mississippi, as they knew from experience raising other cows that Lil’ Bill was far too tiny and needed help. Poor Lil’ Bill was struggling to breathe when Gretchen Grissett, DVM, MS, a clinical instructor at MSU-CVM, examined him.
“The calf’s owners really wanted us to save him, and I think they really wanted to keep him, but he was in really tough shape with a lot of respiratory issues when he came to us,” Dr. Grissett said. (Similar to premature babies, Lil Bill’s lungs are underdeveloped as a result of being born a month early.) Lil’ Bill’s owners let MSU-CVM adopt him once they realized how much specialized care he needs.
He’s now being monitored 24/7 and has to wear splints on his legs for support. If there’s too much pressure on his joints, he could develop long-term health issues with his bones. Unfortunately, the staff at MSU-CVM still aren’t sure what’s causing Lil’ Bill’s condition. Grissett believes Lil’ Bill might have dwarfism, but she won’t be sure until his DNA tests come back.
“Many of the issues we are facing with him are, in fact, very similar to those experienced with premature babies,” Grissett said. “It often takes them months to grow and become as strong as they should have been at birth, and they commonly face development delays and other such problems — if they’re fortunate enough to survive.”
The good news for Lil’ Bill is that after all of this, he’s progressed enough to have his feeding tube removed, he no longer receives therapeutic oxygen, and further tests showed his lungs were improving. He’s also starting to act like a regular calf, which is a really good sign. According to Grissett, Lil’ Bill likes to sleep a lot (us, too!). “Once awake, he trots around looking for attention, often head-butting team members to demand more milk!” Now, that sounds a lot like our fur babies at home.
Until then, we’ll keep cheering for Lil’ Bill’s amazing accomplishments. He’s beaten the odds by reaching the one-month mark — a rarity among calves that are born three or four weeks premature. “He certainly has the will to survive. Our goal is to make sure he has the very best opportunity to do so!”
To stay up to date on all Lil’ Bill news, head over to MSU-CVM’s Facebook. The team there will continue to post any updates about the mini moo.