|Posted by MaryAnn the FarmWife on April 20, 2014 at 1:30 PM|
This was the worst week ever for me and my heifer, Maybelline. I wrote the following all down for posting on a forum called Keeping a Family Cow. Mainly to help others who have a nagging feeling that something is terribly wrong. I am posting it here too for you, my Farm Friends. I know many of you love Maybelline too.
We have had an absolutely horrifying week here. 6 days of it. I am going to post the log of it all because it may be helpful to someone here in the future. The symptoms and events didn't fit any of the typical diagnosis. But there really was something wrong...I posted it on the KFC Forums under 911 too....this is a very long chain of events, It was Maybelline's first calf and our first time having a heifer...It started on Monday -
This isn't my usual writing style. It's more of a log of events...My Monday. 7 AM I went out to see Maybelline and feed her and talk to her a bit. She had loose poo, and it was a bit messy, and she had actually relieved herself in the stanchion. She never does that. Ever.
She was slow, but fine, the tendon was still there. She ate and went out to her paddock. Even though her tendon was there still we started keeping an eye on her on Sunday, so John was busy in the barns and barnyard and was in and out for a few hours. I was working on the computer doing some tax stuff. I hate doing paperwork, I get very stressed about taxes.
My son came home at about 1:30 and needed to finish up his forms. 22 years old and self employed. His taxes were more complicated than he thought they would be. So I dropped everything to help sort through his stuff.
John came in, said hi to Dylan, grabbed something to eat and was back out before 2 when our friend arrived to pick up some hay. He was in the house less than 20 minutes.
John ran back in the door, in a panic saying Maybelline had just had her calf and it was dead. In a short twenty minutes. Just like that. I backed out of the tax work, leaving it organized to slide right back into, and got into my barn clothes and ran. At this point I was shaking. I didn't know what to expect.
John had already moved the calf out of the paddock and back behind the barn. She was a pretty heifer. Perfect looking. Dead. No star on her head like Maybelline but so very pretty with the light brown coloring. I was so upset I just paced back and forth for a few minutes. Poor Todd didn't know what to say. He knows how much we love that heifer. He's been a farmer his entire life, but there really aren't any decent words for when things go wrong. It's not reassuring to hear that it happens with first time heifer's sometimes, it isn't reassuring at all. So he didn't say too much. I love Todd, he just kept saying how sorry he was.
John had to help Todd with the round bales so I went to look at Maybelline closely. She was out of sorts, and filthy. She must have laid down in some awful cow piles at some point during the morning/early afternoon. She had expelled the afterbirth so that was okay. I decided to let her get herself together a bit. John and I decided to give her an hour before we would bring her in the barn to bathe her a bit. We never had to give her a bath before, but if we wanted to milk her she would need one.
I went back up to the house to work on my sons taxes. About 25 minutes into it John ran into the house because Maybelline was down. The look on his face told me he thought we were going to lose her. He ran back out, and I had to back out of the taxes again, leaving it at a point to pick them back up with my son. I was trembling. Frantic. Not thinking straight. By the time I could get into barn clothes (you never know what you will need to do in a case like this) It took me 15 minutes to get out the door.
John had gone back out, and physically rolled her back upright. He turns into hercules at times like this. He tried to make her stand but she wouldn't. He had pushed and shoved, but he said she kept starting to roll back on her side. He ran and got the cattle prod. Yes, we have one. We had this really nasty red angus once, and then there was Noelle our first white face...she needed it.
He tried repeatedly over the course of a few minutes to get her upright and then standing. He said her eyes were rolled back into her head. He used the prod on her. It started bringing her around. He wound up hitting her with it four times. and pushing on her. By the time I got out there he had her standing. But I could see her eyes, she wasn't in there. Now I was terrified. John was crying, tears running.
Her tongue was lolling around, I got a fast pan of water and got her to slurp just a bit. Then we pushed her into the barn and into her stall. We got a trough filled quick - we never lock her in there, when we open up the stall for her she has free access to the outside where her trough is.
We did a good once over, everything looked okay, we pushed her into the stanchion (the only place we could logically wash her down) and I put some molasses in her feeder - she ate it and then some alfalfa while we hosed her off, curried her, cleaned her all up. She never even noticed us. Then we let her out of the stanchion and locked her in the stall. Clean bedding, clean water. Then I went back to the house to do taxes again with my son. We had decided to let her rest until about 6 or 7 and then milk her. John power washed the stanchion.
We went out at 6:30 to milk her. She was lying down in clean bedding with a glazed shocky look in her eyes, but she was upright. We couldn't get her to stand up. Shoving, pushing, everything. Her head went down. She did not want to stand. John ran to get the prod again, I grabbed a small pan of molasses. She smelled the sugar but would not get up. John came around and went into the stall and she was smelling the sugar but then saw the prod. She got up. He cried again. He hated hitting her with it earlier. She's our Maybelline.
Pushed her into the stanchion and set up the milker. First time for all of us. We did okay. I have colostrum. We didn't milk her out completely, I was too afraid to over milk her. From the beef I know they don't always eat a lot in the first 12 to 24 hours so I wasn't too worried.
We cleaned up, and went to the house. I was still shaking. For hours. We went four times during the night to check on her, and she was doing fine. We opened up the door and she went to sleep out under the stars in her favorite spot. This morning she was up. Not full of energy, and still a bit shocky but up and moving. We milked her again. One of her quarters was more full than the others, so I hand milked out the rest. I will get the hang of this.
I have found 3 positive things. She will never associate being milked with nurturing a calf. I have colostrum. I'm going to have an extra gallon of milk every day. That was Monday.
We milked and watched her. There was something not quite right...I started getting bad feelings about stuff. But being a new cow mom I couldn't quite tell what it was.
I went on KFC last night, and posted Maybelline's condition. There were a few thoughts and suggestions, but because she is doing okay, the consensus is a cautious watch. I went out around 12:30 (crazy cow lady in the driving sleet after midnight with wickedly awful 25 mph winds) to check on her. She was laying comfortably in her stall, head up, eyes bright, ears up, wondering what the heck I was doing out in that weather. She didn't get up but she looked okay. This morning, the sun was out, and she wasn't. Everyone else was out in the pastures by 6. Scared me. She was inside, waiting for us. She isn't eating very well though. Grain, yes, sugar, yes, she picks at the alfalfa. Hay is nosed around. I posted this on KFC too. I am watching her for everything at this point.
I am mixing in the dry molasses with her grain. She is eating grain just fine...there's not much interest in the hay. She did eat some today though. Far better than yesterday. I am watching her closely and will weigh grain, test for ketosis, giving extra molasses, The non caustic paste went fine. I am a crazy paranoid cow lady at this point.
We got 2 gallons and a pint tonight....I have no calf and no pigs yet! Nearly four gallons a day Sally - this is your fault. You said I should expect 3. SO I planned on needing to use up 2 gallons...now what am I gonna do? MAKE CHEESE!!! Oh and She is still fussy about eating. But she is getting her curious silly cow attitude back. Tractor supply (the only local place to carry much of anything) didn't have anything that would have been helpful, so I ordered some ketosis gel online. She's getting it because she is still a bit listless. Tonight, after milking, I grabbed a new flake of hay to put out for her, and John started lecturing me about how I should wait for her to eat the hay already in the rack. She must not be hungry....yeah right. She saw me put the new stuff in the rack (same bale) and strolled over and started eating it like it was special hay. With the beef, we don't baby them. They either eat the hay or they don't get more. He has to learn they are very different animals...It's getting better. I got the milking routine - going out, milking, then cleaning it up to about an hour. The longest part is washing the pails up. I think I am being too careful with the clean thing but err on the side of clean. Give me a few weeks and I will get it down to a system...still working out the kinks...
Thursday: We got about two more gallons this morning. Maybelline is three so that may be the cause. After using the machine, One of her quarters was still a bit swollen and tender. Used the filter to check and so far it's okay. The edema is subsiding from birthing. I rubbed it down a bit and hand stripped it for a while. The other quarters were pretty empty. I am learning. About Joann's book: I have her book and read it the week I got Maybelline. Then reread parts of it again this week. But John thinks beef. They aren't princesses. Those Angus and SImmenthal will eat any old hay. And I do make a fuss about the hay, I am trying to get John to understand it. I have to figure out a way to move everyone around a bit in the front...there are three paddocks and John's pet ewe would clean up the leftovers better. I know the whole process will get faster as we go. Right now because I am overthinking and double checking each step it is taking longer. Plus I know I am getting a little too fussy about washing up...but better cleaner than not. I will get this. I will.
Evening: Udder massage complete. Used the strip cup before milking. It looked fine. After we removed the machine I hand stripped as much as possible and really rubbed her down. Then used the strip cup again. There were a few globules from the quarter I wasn't expecting. John had strained the ilk through the strainer while I was working on her udder and there was nothing to see on the mesh. So the milk itself looked fine, but the last bits I stripped out had a few lumps. Humph. We voted to do a third milking tomorrow. Keep her as emptied out as possible. Since I have no experience with any of this it's hard for me to judge her udder condition. There are no hard lumps, just feels swollen and the quarters are much softer after milking.
Called the vet. The morning milking went pretty well. No curdles, I think the ones I found at the end last night were just at the top of the udder from the edema, there were no curdles in the filter or the first strips last night. This morning, the milking went well, and then I stripped her good, and massaged her udder. She was no where near as touchy about the stripping.
The reason I called the vet though is she is still not eating hay really at all. None from last night till this morning, and now she has no interest in grain. I'm going to do a ketosis check on her in a few, I think it may be brewing but I am not really convinced that it is the primary issue....thinking through the string of events...she birthed fast. Then about an hour later went down. On her side in a bad way. I think she has a twist.
John came in and said the vet is already here.
I hadn't hit the enter button above cause I ran to put my barn clothes on. I just got back in.
The update: The vet simply showed up without calling - love our vet's office. They have two great large animal vets. This one is the cute girl who prefers cows to horses. Again love her. I told her I thought Maybelline had a twist. I had had an AH HAH moment earlier in the day. I had read a post on KFC 911 about a twist...it didn't really fit Maybelline but she was completely down on Monday sprawled on her side...maybe partially twisted.
Maybelline was not in distress from milk fever. Good. The vet didn't think she was in distress from a twist because Maybelline was having no problem pooing. Nice good textured pile right in front of her.
I could see she thought it was ketosis...so we brought Maybelline in. Then we had to force her into the stanchion. She could not be baited in with molasses. We locked her head in the stanchion with her feed pan in front of her and not interested in the hay or the molasses...there was a hmmmm.
The odd stanchion that John built worked just fine for this...there are a couple posts that are sort of in the way for milking but they hold her hips really well and prevent us from getting kicked. On the right side is a fence panel to make it more chute like but it can be easily removed (and was) On the left side there are gates that swing open completely. I milk from the left side with the machine and gates wide open.
Maybelline struggled during the prodecures a bit but she really never tried to kick the vet, John or me. It was good to have her hips confined so she couldn't swing them and cause any problems.
Checked her uterus. Good, no leftovers in there.
Her udder looked good I am doing the right stuff with the edema. No worries about mastitis.
Listened to her side. Oops, too much gas in there. It was a twist. Decided it was a floating twist.
What the heck? Okay floating twist means that the stomach that makes gas is not staying put. Sometimes it moves up. It is not completely twisted - hence the eating on and off. When it was down or partially down she could eat. If it 'floated up' no appetite.
This can then cause ketosis because she can't eat properly. Mild to moderate ketosis was confirmed.
Options: try the old fashioned method of rolling your cow. This method doesn't always work. You literally roll your cow over. From one direction. What it does is cause the stomachs to slide back into place using gravity. Sometimes you have to do it repeatedly.
Other option surgery. Right then and there. A mild sedative first to calm her. Shave her, then numb her and open up her side, reach around inside and insert a tube to relieve the gas. Then pull the stomach to where it should be and stitch it to a muscle to hold it there - hopefully forever. Sew her back up. So there was surgery done this afternoon. Maybelline was not terrible about it but wasn't pleased either. I don't think she hates the vet just yet.
Then the option of the IV for ketosis. Yes, please do. Prevent this from getting worse. IV needs to go in a main artery...it wasn't a pretty sight - because we had to tie her head to the post of the stanchion.
Done. Maybelline picked at some alfalfa. We locked her in her stall with fresh water, some hay and clean bedding for the afternoon. I am done. Really.
Actually, it was probably better that I had no experience. Comments I got from others were that they never would have gone past the idea of ketosis....
Later on Friday:
She is weak and wobbly. and I am going to force her into the milking stanchion. I feel horrible. Depending on how she does, I may be calling the vet back.
even later...Vigilant and persistent. Up all night. She is up, and started to finally pick at her hay hours after the surgery at about dusk. It took a lot longer than the vet thought it would take for her to drink and eat. Scared us even more. The ketosis test this morning showed a pretty mild case...I think we are getting it under control.
We forced the Glyco down her throat. and we will continue to do that for another couple of days. She hates us right now. But she is drinking water and has eaten a few flakes of hay, a few mouthfuls of grain. I think the keto never really got full blown because she could eat on and off....and she still gave another TWO GALLONS of milk this morning. Lord what am I going to do? my poor Maybelline.
Amazingly, the surgery was done with her wide awake, just a topical anesthesia, no antibiotics. The vet had to literally reach around her insides, alleviate the gas that had formed in the twisted stomach, and then move it back into place. It then got sewn to the wall of her abdomen to keep it from ever moving again.
John will not be giving her so many treats next season...he feels terrible. BUT the vet also said she really wasn't that over conditioned - it was the fast birth, still born calf, the shocky way she was after birthing and not eating right then, and all the other complicating conditions - the perfect storm.
Man oh man. We wrestled tonight. Maybelline does not like the glucose...she is feeling better. She is actually rather relaxed about the milking now. It's getting better. She is still giving 2 gallons of milk at a time. The vet said she is about 750 pounds or so...Her appetite is coming back. She is eating a lot of hay - an almost normal amount. Three pounds of grain tonight. We are being good cow parents. Forcing her to take her medicine one more day...
It looked like milk fever, it looked like ketosis, it never looked like a twist. I knew it was something really wrong,
|Posted by MaryAnn the FarmWife on February 25, 2014 at 10:25 AM|
The last several months from October until now have been a challenge on the gardening end of our spectrum. Early frost, COLD, snow, more cold, SNOW, even colder days with even more snow have created an additional workload that is hard to communicate. Our farm has been under a heavy blanket of the icy stuff since before Christmas time.
Each snow not only requires we clear the porches, walkways and driveway, but also the farmstand, barn yard, farm lane, gates, pasture gates, pathways to get to various pens and livestock and then my precious Elvira needs a place to go too.
Maybelline has had it with the snow. She can only get from her stall door to the water trough. It's far too slippery and icy for a gal 'with calf' to be walking about.
One of the biggest disappointments is that this heavy snow is making it impossible to get into the ravine where the maple grove is. We may not be able to get any sap at all. I keep hoping it will warm up enough and melt. That Hunterdon County maple syrup is really good.
All told, last year, was a very difficult year for growers across the entire region. I am pleased that our corn and melons grew very nicely in spite of the deluges and floods, and we did manage to grow enough to share with you. We had a bare minimum of beans, greens, cucumbers, zucchinis and squashes, and more to sell to you, my FARM FRIENDS. I was able to bring a good variety to the Holland Township Farmers' Market weekly. But, we did not have enough produce to stock my farmstand out front. *sigh*
In the last few months we constructed a 'high tunnel' aka 'hoop house' aka 'sort of like a green house' to start planting in this spring. We spent the last few months clearing it off after every snowfall and are waiting, rather impatiently to be able to plant in it. We intend on using this structure to extend our growing season both earlier and later every year, with the HOPE of also being able to grow some greens year round in it.
Right now, I am planting flats. Literally, thousands of seedlings are growing. The snow is creating issues with this too...we cannot get into the seedling greenhouse yet. The daily temperatures are far below normal so even if we did unbury it we would have to heat it constantly. So John (the ever resourceful John) has been hanging grow lights in the garage and we have flats out there too. It's a bit on the cool side, but not too cold. It may slow down the starts but it isn't cold enough to kill them off.
The 13 raised beds we installed last spring were a godsend with the floods last year and we will be installing at least another 13 this year. Garlic beds and other beds are greatly being expanded, and we hope to be able to grow twice as much as last year.
And then there are the chickens. The layers are doing just fine and for some unknown reason are feeling rather precocious. They are laying rather nice eggs, and lots of them. The younger hens are laying very well too. So we have some great boxes of ridiculously big eggs for you folks who like them that way.
The roasting chickens have been ordered - we upped the number by another 25% again...if we start having issues with not having enough chickens for the demand we have the option of adding another 100 to 200 at the end of the season. This year we will be getting the chicks from our old supplier. His breed has heavier breast meat and is a far superior eating chicken. I think you will all be happy.
And last, I am working on the hives. The bees did not like last year either. It was too wet (hard to collect pollen in the rain) and they did not fare well. I am rebuilding several of the hives this year.
Until next month, be well, keep warm, pray for no more snow. Thank you for being my Farm Friend.