The City Girl Farmer


I Make Cows Pee – What’s Your Super Power?
May 22, 2011, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , ,

Sometimes you have to laugh if you don’t want to cry.  Tiddles, our recently freshened Jersey cow, was diagnosed with ketosis last Wednesday.  She had quit eating her grain about two weeks before that but I thought that cows knew what they needed to eat instinctively and she was still eating plenty of hay, so I dismissed it.  That was my first mistake.  A few days later, I noticed that her milk production seemed to drop and that the milk smelled funny.  I was the only one who smelled it, though, and she was producing so much milk that I was making lots of cheese just to keep up, so I dismissed it.  That was my second mistake.  Last Sunday, I noticed that her breath had the same funny smell her milk did and she wasn’t eating very well.  I made a mental note that when I wasn’t so busy I needed to look up ketosis.  I had a faint memory of reading up on it before she had her calf.  Unfortunately, I was still busy and it wasn’t until Wednesday that her condition had deteriorated to the point where I thought I had to call the vet.  While I was waiting for a call back, I went back through my book and Tiddles’ was a classic case.  When I went out to feed her and milk her, she looked like a cow from India–emaciated.  She walked with a bit of a limp, too, but I couldn’t see any injury.  She had been a bit listless and she’s usually a very curious, active cow.  She greets strangers and will follow you around the corral or out into the pasture like a big, ungainly dog.

For my readers that didn’t open the link to the official definition of ketosis, think of it as a metabolically induced anorexia.  The cow starts to suddenly use her fat reserves as her sole source of energy.  She loses her appetite for everything, not just grain.  Ironically, the thing she needs most is carbohydrates—-lots of them—-right now!  So the treatment is to inject her daily with Vitamin B Complex, force feed her a molasses brew until there is no more trace of ketones in her urine, which brings us to the part where we can laugh.

I am a member of the “Keeping a Family Cow” yahoo group and while I was waiting for the vet to call back, I was pestering my fellow group members for help.  They told me to go get ketone test strips and to test her urine twice a day to gauge when I needed to force feed her the molasses brew and when just the injection of B Complex would be sufficient.  I was already almost in tears thinking that I should have acted much sooner and here I was pondering the idea that I would have to stare at my cow all day, armed with a test strip waiting to catch her pee.  Isn’t that pitiful?  And then I read that you can actually make a cow pee on demand by rubbing her briskly just below her vulva.  So out to the barn I went, armed with ketone strips and my newly acquired knowledge to give Tiddles a massage.  I felt a little awkward.  I don’t know, call me puritanical, but rubbing around animals’ privates is a wee bit on the perverted side, isn’t it?  But I carried on and a few seconds later she went into the characteristic squat of a cow about to urinate.  I stopped the massage and stuck my test strip into the stream and voila!  Urinalysis complete!  So if I ever join the circus, I am now armed with the most amazing trick, don’t you think?

So I think I’ve learned my lesson now.  The next time she calves I’ll be watching her like a hawk.  I might just feed her some Snickers to keep her sugar up (kidding!) prophylactically.  I have been told that once they get ketosis, it is a long road back to optimum bovine health and that I am looking at weeks, not days, of giving shots until she is back to normal.  Anybody who reads this blog knows that I *hate* giving shots.  So if you’re the praying type, pray for the City Girl Farmer.  She is very unhappy at her lot right now and she will be suffering a little bit each day until Tiddles is back to her old self.