Bloody Business

My son, Brance, feeds a bottle to Breezy.

“Things don’t always go as planned.” I keep reminding myself of this every time I meet yet another roadblock and have to shift my expectations and plans accordingly. I’ve definitely been thrown a few curve balls this time around with my family milk cow, and it has been quite exasperating.

The first thing that went wrong was when my cow Sienna did not get pregnant through AI and that pushed her due date way back. I mentioned this is in a previous blog. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this one, seemingly, small misfortune set in motion a domino effect of frustrating consequences. 

Since my family had a trip scheduled for the third week of September, I knew I had to find a way for Sienna to be taken care of while we were away. She calved on Sept. 4. I knew her newborn calf would not be able to drink four gallons of milk a day on its own, so I purchased another calf to share the load. 

The calves left awful scabs and cuts on Sienna’s back teats.

I spent the two weeks before I left for my trip getting Sienna to accept the new calf and treating one of her quarters for mastitis. I’d never had two calves on my cow at one time, but it is not uncommon for dairy cows to be nurse cows to more than one calf. 

However, I will note here that it is uncommon for two calves to be allowed to stay with a mama cow all the time (unless they are twins). It was frustrating to have to go through the process of putting another calf on my cow and getting her to accept it, but by the end of two weeks, Sienna had accepted both calves. Another problem that arose was that, at first, Sienna still had more milk than both calves could drink. I still had to milk out the remainder. But, thankfully, by the time my trip came, both calves were able to empty out her udder after they fed.

The big problem awaited me upon my return. During my absence, the calves had really done a number on Sienna’s back teats. I still don’t understand exactly why she got cut up so badly. They were very rough on her. Their brutal nursing had left Sienna’s teats cut up, bloody, and scabbed. I have never seen this happen before and was very worried about my poor cow. To make matters worse, one of her back quarters had mastitis, and her milk production was down. I knew I had to take immediate action. 

Curdle sucks down his mother’s milk from a bottle.

The culprits were separated from Sienna. I milked her, treated her mastitis, and then put her milk into bottles for the calves. It is now six days later. Sienna’s mastitis is gone, her teats are healing, and her milk production is back up to four gallons a day.

It is tiresome to have to milk my cow and then feed the milk in bottles to the calves. It is disheartening to have a milk cow that, because of bouts of mastitis, I’ve hardly been able to keep any of the milk for consumption. And it’s frustrating not to know when or if I can let the calves back on her in fear of re-injury. Hopefully, things will look up soon. Stay tuned for what I hope is a more positive update on the circumstances.

Interesting sidenote: I’ve now been bitten by a cow. That was a first. One of the calves, while trying to search my body for the bottle, grabbed a chunk of my arm, clamped on, and bit down. It actually drew blood. So, word to the wise, watch out for vicious creatures such as wolverines, rabid dogs, grizzly bears, and, apparently, bottle calves.      

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