Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sad news . . .

Last fall we purchased two new cows, Skipper and Pricey - registered Guernseys, the breed that pretty much guarantees you will get A2 milk, a type of milk that is supposedly better for our immune systems, especially for diabetes, heart trouble and cancer.

These are huge cows!  They are both bigger than our Guernsey bull Sam.  They came from a herd that was raised on cement and ate grain.  We threw them into our grass and hay fed herd and they had to get used to living outside.

It hasn't been easy for them.  Their milk production plummeted, and we didn't get the extra milk we expected to get over the winter months.  One of them was still pregnant when she arrived, and her calf died during birth.  The other limped a lot.  The vet said that they would be fine after a year on our place.  We feed our animals well, and we offer them free choice minerals.

They have not been doing well.  Pricey's limp has gotten worse and worse.  Skipper has developed a bad case of mastitis that required medical treatment, something that has never happened with our "mongrel" herd of outdoor cows.  Our vet is good, but he does have a tendency not to come out until he is sure we REALLY have a problem.  I do not call him for nothing.  Yesterday I insisted he come out to check on Pricey's limp.  It is getting worse, not better, and there is swelling in her ankle.

It is bad news.  If it is neurological, which he suspicions, then Pricey has a very short time to live.  I have come to love her, as I love them all.  This is so hard for me to accept.  He said there is a slim chance that it is just nutritional, and so I came back from the feed mill armed with special feed and vitamins.  We are drying her up, as lactating is just adding to her stress.  She got four pounds of feed topped with Biotin last night, and we will work her up to 10 pounds of feed per day.  She is living in the barn where she is protected from the elements - she was a "hot house" cow, and she just can't take the snow and ice.

The vet said to watch her, to keep her from going down.  We were gratified that she stood immediately to get at her hay.  Last night she hungrily chomped down the high protein feed that the vet recommended.  She was still standing when I left, eating up the last bits of hay.  I am about to go out and check her this morning to make sure she has plenty of water and hay, and then give her another helping of grain with Biotin.  I will also give Skipper some grain, even though our herd is strictly grass fed.  The vet says these were high production cows that will not do well on the grass and hay diet here. 

In the past, we brought in two cows from a grain fed herd.  Eventually we sold one, as she didn't do well on grass, but the other one has adapted quite well.  I was optimistic that our two new girls would eventually fit in, but it appears that it is not going to happen.

We do not do grain.  It is one of the selling points of our herd share program.  We will be selling Skipper as soon as she is feeling better.  I hope that we are also selling Pricey, and not burying her.  All we can do is hope that it is nutritional, load her up with grain and vitamins, and find a home for her where they do not mind having a grain fed milk cow.

I hope I have good news about Pricey in the days to come, but in the end, what will be will be.

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