The City Girl Farmer

Good-Bye Lilly
February 24, 2010, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , , ,

Lilly the day after we got her

We had to put Lilly down a little over a week ago.  I have been too sad to blog about it.  Now I think I might feel better if I tell her  story.  She went down early Sunday morning during a VERY cold snap.   I knew from when she had gone down before that we had 24 hours to get her up.  So we tried with no luck and decided to just set her up with food and water nearby and try again when we got home from church.  We couldn’t get her up that evening either and decided we would call the vet in the morning if she wasn’t up by herself.  She must have tried about a dozen times, each time too weak to make it all the way.

Lilly after milking a week before she died

The vet came out and told us she needed to be euthanized.  Right up to the end she hadn’t seemed that sick.  She was alert, eating and drinking and so we continued to hope.  It took Jon and I both a couple of hours to come to grips with what we needed to do.  The doctor took blood and stool samples to run three different tests.   After he left we called another farmer to make sure we knew how to put her down so that she wouldn’t suffer.  We talked about who should shoot her, both of us trying to protect the other from the inevitable psychic trauma of putting down a pet.  Jon did the deed, and well I might add.  She stopped breathing in a couple of seconds.  He said there was hardly any mess.

This morning I got a call from the vet.  She died from Johne’s disease.  It’s official name is Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.  It infects the intestines and the animal catches it as a baby.  It is latent until the animal is 2 or 3 years old.  Eventually they develop the symptoms Lilly had:  diarrhea, healthy appetite, no fever but wasting.  It does not respond to antibiotics and is always fatal. 😦

So now we know.  There was nothing I could have done that would have saved her and I suppose I am somewhat relieved that it wasn’t some gross failure of mine that caused her death.  I thought this news would make me feel better but actually I feel like a scab was torn off and I find I am quite depressed.  I have great admiration for the tough old farmers who undoubtedly took things like this in stride.  I, on the other hand, am a city girl and need time to learn to take these things in stride.  I wonder if I have enough years left.

Coming away after a good, long drink at the trough a week before she died

Finally Finished the Door
February 12, 2010, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Chickens, Goats, Maintenance

Thomas next to the coop door he designed

We had been working on this off and on for a few months and finally decided to get it finished.  Can you see where it says “Chikin Coop” across the top in purple chalk?  That’s how you know where you are. 🙂

He designed it with a hen-sized hole so that the chickens could come and go as they pleased during the day.  The only problem with that, as we soon discovered, was that young goats can get their heads in but are too stupid to figure out how to get them out again.

It was hilarious to come out and see a goat on his front knees, his butt in the air, bleating to be set free.  The door had caught him in the act of trying to steal chicken feed.

We have decided to just keep the door closed for now.   We will be having baby goats in the spring (you can’t say “kids” when you’re my age or people panic) and we don’t want them to endure the plight our little wether did.

Thomas locking the slider into place

We Don’t Always Win
February 12, 2010, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , , ,

Whenever I write, I try to avoid making our life sound perfect.  I can’t think of another life I’d trade (well, that may not be entirely true) for the life we’re living but we have disappointments, setbacks and failures like everyone else.  So I thought I’d share one of those disappointments.

Shortly after we got Lilly, we discovered that she had mastitis.  Of course it happened when we were having record cold temperatures, which is no laughing matter in Colorado.  I tried my essential oils since they had worked so well on the goat and they didn’t change the course of the infection.  It just got worse.  I finally gave in and we were giving Penicillin shots once again.  Man, I hate giving shots!  Of course the milk had to be wasted so we didn’t drink a bunch of antibiotics, too.

After that was over, her milk production gradually went from a sickly 3/4 gallon per day to close to two gallons per day.  I was thrilled!  I started to make yogurt and quark and was looking forward to fromage blanc and other experiments…..and then production started to drop.  And then Lilly wasn’t eating so much.  I didn’t worry because she was happy looking and drinking plenty of water.  It turns out she liked our neighbor’s hay better and was probably loading up on that.  “What’s wrong with that?” you might be thinking.  Our neighbor has beef cattle and the protein level in the feed is not sufficient to keep a cow in milk.  That’s what’s wrong with that.

We decided at that point we’d pen her up so we could control her feed and after about 5 days she just stopped eating.  I forgot to mention the terrible explosive diarrhea that she developed as this was all happening.  It was so liquid I had to stare to notice it was greenish and not yellowish water and was, therefore, poo.   I couldn’t reach my cow mentor and I  broke down and called the vet.  He’s 30 miles away and was very happy to talk to me on the phone instead of coming out.  He prescribed some electrolyte replacements and vitamins, told me we needed to jump-start the fermentation vat (her rumen) because it had become too acidic from too much grain and alfalfa.  What she needed was more low-protein grass.  So after about a 24 hour hunger strike, she is eating again.  Low protein grass.  The kind you feed them when you don’t want milk any more.

I am not giving up yet, though.  Even though we’re getting about a cup of milk a day now, we’re still getting something and if I can get her through this gastrointestinal crisis, maybe her milk will come back to an amount that is at least worth the effort to milk.

Lilly at the trough with a very empty looking udder

Putting pills down a cow with a bolus gun warrants another post of its own.