Monday, May 18, 2009

Losing Six, saving Diner

I'm starting to think the month of May comes with a curse around here. At least when it comes to herd health. Last year, May brought us six aborted calves from springers and a case of milk fever severe enough to rival all others. This past week we said goodbye to Six, one heck of a cow, and almost lost another.

The neighbor stopped in last Wednesday to tell us one of the dry cows was calving out in the pasture. They saw that only one of the calf's legs was out and figured she was going to need help. In the five minutes it took Glen and our neighbor to get back out there, Six had pushed her bull calf out – and her uterus along with it.

Watching from the house with my binoculars, I knew something was wrong when I saw the vet's truck driving across the field. We had never summoned the vet for an obstetrical call before, so I figured it must be bad. Glen and Doc reverted the uterus without any difficulty, only to discover that the delivery had pinched one of the nerves controlling movement in Six's back leg. She was able to stand, but not without assistance. The prognosis looked pretty decent. Until that night.

Glen went out to bring Six more feed and water after milking and found that she'd prolapsed her uterus again, despite the stitches. Glen and his brother reverted her again and added another stitch.

The next day she prolapsed again, this time only partially, but it was pretty clear that she'd probably never conceive again. On top of that, she was no longer able to rise. Unfortunately, there would be no happy ending to this story. We said goodbye to Six. Glen said that when he got into the truck after euthanizing her, Stairway to Heaven was playing on the radio – and he couldn't stop the tears.

Losing a cow never makes for a good week, but losing two would be downright awful. Luckily, Glen diagnosed and treated Diner's case of nervous ketosis before it came to that. As the cows when out on Friday morning, Diner refused to go out to pasture and instead kept trying to walk into the fence.

Glen noticed and brought her back in. She'd been off feed, but seemed fine otherwise. The ketone test turned plum purple, which explained why – by that time – she was gnawing on the manger liner and chewing on the pipes. A couple hours later, after some dextrose, B vitamins and propylene glycol, Diner was fine.

I'm knocking on wood as I type this: Thankfully the month is mostly over.

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