Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Days at the Farm

Well it's been a bunch of busy days at the farm lately. Between the birth of 8 calves this week (7 bulls and 1 lonely heifer calf) and a couple of sick cows, oh yeah and the good 'ol Minnesota's been a busy time!

First the bull calves. We have had 13 bulls out of the last 15 calves born at the farm. The 2 lonely heifers could really use some more friends, so I am hoping that the 2 cows due at the end of this week don't let us down.

Sick cows: nothing that we could really help, but we have 2 cows that have ailments that we and the vet cannot explain. I hate it when we call the vet out and even they can't figure out what is wrong with our sick cows. It's frustrating not knowing what's wrong with a sick animal-they can't tell us where it hurts or how they feel so we have to work smart and watch them. We watch how much they eat, how long they stand to eat, how long do they rest, are they chewing their cuds. We take their temperatures. We listen to their lungs, heart and stomachs. Using these observations we try to decide what might be wrong with our cows. These cows have digestive upsets, basically we have 2 cows that ate something they shouldn't have or they didn't eat as much as they should have. We treat sick cows like this without antibiotics, but instead with probiotics. It is never economical to treat cows with antibiotics-we lose the cost of the drugs as well as the milk lost that we will need to dump until the drugs leave the cow's body. Therefore, we try other methods, that take more time, but in the end are better for the cow and our pocketbook. We have been treating the 2 sick cows with alfalfa meal drench, probiotics, yeast, magnesium, calcium, choline, and other B-vitamins.

One cow has been responding well to the treatment, however the other decided to roll her stomach....her abomasum. Cows have a 4-chambered stomach, containing the rumen (fermentation chamber), omasum, recticulum (the honeycomb-looking stomach-1st stomach) and abomasum (the true stomach-just like our stomach). When cows have a disruption in their eating pattern, they can fill with gas-which causes their stomach to inflate and float out of place, thereby slowing or even stopping the flow of feed through the stomach. The rumen is a warm, wet environment for some awesome little microbes! They turn food that we as humans can't eat into usable food for cows. When there are problems, the microbes can start dying off, making the cow feel even worse. As a result it is very critical that we keep our cows healthy and eating. Surgery is the only option for a displaced abomasum. After a quick shot of tranquilizer, the vet and I worked for about an hour to relieve the gas in the stomach and stitch it back in place. Within an hour and a half the cow was back to normal, with nothing to show more than her sutures on her side. Needless to say, surgery is expensive and we have to put the cow on penicillin, so we hope to work to make sure a displace abomasum never happens-or that cows don't get sick in the first place.

The MN weather-rain for 12 hours plus 14 inches of snow on the ground=mushy mess everywhere! Slush is everywhere, getting stuck, cows getting wet, lakes forming from puddles, and mainly crummy weather to be outside in....hoping it gets better soon.

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I write this blog to share my passion for my cows and farming, please be respectful of that. I reserve the right to delete those comments which portray hate, call names, and are out right disrespectful. If you have an honest question, I will respond, to explain what we do on our farm, why we do it and how we do it. Please read with an open mind. My time to blog is short, as most of our days are spent caring for our beloved cows. Thank you!