This evening, I hand-milked a cow.
While all the modern technologies we have, there is a sad reality to farm life. It’s a reality that we don’t think about, the one that stays in the barn and effects our lives so little.
A few days ago, a heifer went into labor out in the field. She gave birth to a whooping hundred pound bull calf. Although this was a big heifer, the calf was bigger. There are always “should’ve”, “would’ve”, and “could’ve” questions in the farmers mind, but just like a woman– no one can ever predict the precise moment a baby will choose to enter the world.
For this heifer, her time came and she found struggling to give birth, so she was assisted and the while our new little Herford/Holstien bull calf is doing well.
You see, this heifer pinched a nerve in her back during the delivery. The calf was very large for a first baby, and now this Momma isn’t able to stand up by herself or even walk.
You see when a cow has a large calf it can damage the cow’s oburator nerve– a nerve that controls the thigh muscles in a cow’s hind legs. It’s very common in cows after a long, hard birth. Damage to this nerve prevents a cow from having the ability to pull her legs inward to lay comfortably or stand.
For us ladies, this isn’t as bad as it seems. We go to the doctor, a chiropractor, and maybe physical therapy. We roll around in a wheel chair and we heal.
For a dame the size of Momma cow, if she doesn’t get up within a week….well… she’s in trouble.
This is the part of dairy farming that always encloses around my heart and squeezes. There is no button to push and cry, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” to have someone come and stand her back up.
This is a farm and picking up a 1800 lb cow is no small feat, especially when there are several dozen other dames in the barn that need fed and milked, and put out to pasture.
So for now, we’ve made her a little reserved section in the barn. I can see the other dames come in and stick their heads over the petitions to visit as they wait for their turn in the milk parlor in the morning and these past nights.
Twice a day, we lift Momma cow with hip lifts.
Me on one side and my brother on the other side, we hand-milk her in hopes to keep her from catching milk fever or mastitis.
Every time we lift her, she refuses to go back down. I watch her back end tilt to fall and she’ll throw her head in one direction and moves her body to maintain her balance. She stood tonight on one hind leg and left the other dangle over it. Her appetite is still as large as any Holstein cow I’ve ever encountered.
Time is not a friend for this dame. While hip-lifters and having a section of the barn all her own, as little as it maybe, are just what the vet ordered to help speed healing, recovery is not guaranteed.
Doc, her calf, is a feisty guy. He attacks my knee and my upper leg when I come with a bottle in hand. He’s so lively and yet on the other end of the barn lies his mother. I look into this dame’s eyes and I see her pain. She moans as she rocks in attempt to move. I talk to her, I encourage her to get up!
Perhaps it’s silly to talk to a cow, but sometimes the tone of a voice can sooth and distract from the discomfort of the present. I may be human, but somethings are not much different between four hooves and two feet in nature.
Maternal instincts are one of them. Fighting for survival is another.
As long as she is eating… As long as she’s trying… I believe any dame that can get to her feet deserves a chance, no matter how long it takes her to stand.
What do you think?