Friday, April 1, 2011

The Good, The Bad, & The UGLY....

The Good:
Well, there has been some good stuff on the farm as late.  The cows are milking 68# pounds per cow (~8 1/2 gallons) per day this week.  This is the highest sustained milk level that the cows have achieved in 6 years (since Brent & I have been married).  We will usually hover around 60-65# (7 3/4 gallons) per day, and while this little bit may not seem like a lot, when you multiply 3/4 of a gallon per cow times 70 cows, it really adds up!  The cows are healthy & happy, and healthy & happy cows produce more milk.  We are also milking many "fresh" or newly-calved cows, which tend to produce more milk.  We've also had many live, healthy calves, and are already up to heifer #115, which was born Tuesday morning. 
The Bad:
 The bad part of all these fresh cows is that it means we have a lot more cows to attend to.  When any female has a baby, it is a stressful time, and such is the same with cows.  When cows are fresh, they are more susceptible to infections and metabolic disorders.  We work hard to stay ahead of the problems, and catch them early, so that we can treat them & keep the cows doing well.  Sometimes these treatments are just extra vitamins and minerals, like calcium and glucose (for energy), and sometimes, it requires more serious measures, such as veterinary surgeries.  Monday night we treated 4 fresh cows for various ailments.  #9014 & #913 (aka Hyacinth) were found to have displaced abomasums (DA's), and #9014 also had an infection in her uterus after calving. Hyacinth & #122 (Alexis) also both had ketosis, which is when a cow is in need of energy, and so begins to burn fat stores.  The ketones produced by the burning of the fat, reduce a cow's appetite, which leads to additional burning of fat stores.  (Hence, a bad cycle.)  So, we give the ketotic cows additional electrolytes to try to keep them from burning fat & try to get ahead of the cow's needs.  We treat the uterine infections with antibiotics, where necessary, and then we bring the vet in for surgeries.  Dr. Susan did 2 DA surgeries on Tuesday morning.  DA's is when one of the cow's 4 stomachs (the abomasum) twists, and doesn't allow food to pass thru this portion of the stomach, thus not allowing a cow to continue eating & absorbing nutrients normally.  Surgery typically is very effective on this issue, and the cow gets back on track quickly after fixing the problem.  Both #9014 & #913 are doing better now, but we will continue to watch & monitor them over the next few days.  Thank goodness for our veterinarians who we can call on when we need!

The UGLY...
Alexis in Spring of 2010, shortly after calving for the 1st time.

The UGLY happened tonite.  I was washing the milking equipment during the last group of cows, and suddenly heard a loud noise.  I looked up to see our cow, Alexis, who fell off the parlor floor & her legs where in all different directions.  I dropped the hose, and jumped up to the top deck, and lifted the bar that normally holds the cows in place during milking.  Normally, when a cow falls down, when someone opens the bar, she jumps up & tries to get out.  However, Alexis didn't really try.  I knew there was a problem, and let out a pretty blood-curtling scream to get Brent in from the barn, where he was bedding cows, to help.  We tried to get her up, and she tried once or twice, and then died in front of our eyes.  We think maybe she had a heart attack or her previous illness had progressed to something worse.  Death is something that livestock farmers learn to deal with.  A cow or pig will die from time to time, and you learn to deal with disappointment and sorrow, but this was so sudden, that I was seriously disturbed.  So, tonite, I will shed some tears for Alexis, have a glass of wine, and pray for a better day tomorrow.  Livestock farmers care for every animal on their farm, regardless of the size or type, and each and every one them means a lot to us, as their caretakers and as a part of our farm family! 

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