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The rise of BABY WAZZA

Thursday, 27th February, 2020

Warren Blackwell, aka Wazza, looks proudly over his protege, Wazza. PICTURE: Annette Northey Warren Blackwell, aka Wazza, looks proudly over his protege, Wazza. PICTURE: Annette Northey

By Annette Northey

After struggling to survive, a calf named Wazza, born at the agriculture plot at Broken Hill High School this year, is out of the woods for now.

There is no one happier than Warren Blackwell, the original ‘Wazza’ and  the school’s now-retired General Assistant of 24 years, that his namesake has a new lease on life. 

Baby Wazza was born on Saturday, January 11, and it was thought at the time that he wouldn’t survive. 

“We didn’t really know what was wrong with him,” Mr Blackwell said. “Maybe it was that he was a bit too big for the womb, or that he’d been in there too long, but his joints all needed straightening out, and he couldn’t get to his mother (to feed),” 

Agriculture teacher Di Toynton said that his two front legs were so twisted he couldn’t stand.

Mr Blackwell described what Greg Curran, former vet for the Department of Primary Industries, felt the problem could have been.

“He was under the impression that Wazza might have been sitting in the womb the wrong way and that his joints could have formed at a different rate to what the rest of his body had.

“And he felt he was pretty big for a one or two-day-old calf, so that’s what it might have been,” he said.

“And then he just wouldn’t eat.

“He just went into a complete shutdown, he didn’t want to do anything, he just laid there, he didn’t even move.

“So, we moved the mother into here (the paddock where the calf was) and laid the calf in front of her. But while we were getting her in, she was attacking the calf.

“So, we locked her in another paddock and milked her in there. 

“Then we would push a long tube down into his stomach and pour the milk in with a funnel,” he said.

Ms Toynton said their GA Mark Leonard’s wife, Cindy, was really helpful in that regard.

“Mark’s wife had worked a lot with horses and knew how to tube feed already. She was fantastic.

“She would come in and help tube feed the colostrum, that first milk, into him.

“She came in and helped strap up his legs too,” she said.

Ms Toynton said his front legs were strapped with bandages to give him a bit more strength and to help him stand up.

Mr Curran warned Wazza’s carers they would have a lot of work ahead of them.

“He told us what we had to do, but he couldn’t believe it when we told him that we got Wazza onto his mother,” he said.

“Mark and I came in on the Monday to give him some colostrum again, down the tube, and he’d moved from just here to just over there.

“But then he laid down and he wouldn’t get up, wouldn’t do nothin’, so we got him up and forced him to walk to where she (his mother) was. 

“And he stood next to her, then went around the back of her and went like this (makes a nudging gesture with his head) and started drinking from her.”

“And he’s been good ever since,” Ms Toynton said.

“Cindy and Mark have been fantastic, and Old Wazza, and Greg Curran, and Tabby (Dr Guillame Tabateau) our local vet.”

The school’s principal, Ross Mackay, said he wanted to especially acknowledge all the help and expertise these people have given in the whole process of Wazza’s recovery.

“Mark and Cindy Leonard, Greg Curran and Tabby too,” he said.

Mr Blackwell was humble in his reply when asked what he thought of the calf being named after him.

“Let’s just say I’ve had a close connection with the animals in the school,” he said.

Mr Mackay said it was a tribute to the 24 years that Mr Blackwell had been at the school.

Bec Fraser, the school’s new GA who has replaced Mr Blackwell, spoke highly of her predecessor, and said the settling in process has been pretty easy.

“They’re big shoes to fill, though,” she said.

“Ms Toynton was my teacher and I used to follow ‘Blacky’ around the ag plot.

Ms Toynton said Bec’s actually a second (old) Wazza.

“She’s just like him, except she’s got a baby.”

Asked how they got around the name issue, Ms Toynton said it was easy.

 “The calf is Baby Wazza, Warren Blackwell is Old Wazza, and Bec is New Wazza,” she said.

As for Baby Wazza, Ms Toynton said the kids in the school love him.

“They’ve been coming down and giving him pats,” she said.

Mr Blackwell said Wazza is good to have there for the kids.

“He’s good for the Year 9s especially, for them to lead him around, because he’s nice and quiet,” he said.

Ms Toynton said Baby Wazza’s sister, Hootabelle, is exceptional for that, but Mr Blackwell didn’t paint such a favourable picture of Wazza’s mother Paddy, named so because they got her on St Patrick’s Day.

“Try and put a lead on her and lead her around. Oh god, it’s a job and a half,” he said.


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