Is there a Doctor in the house?

Hey everyone! I hope your holiday season is finding you warm so far! The time sure is flying by! Since we last spoke we’ve started to really encounter winter here at the barn. The snow and freezing cold are in full swing. Us calves are all doing well, tucked in our hutches with our coats on and lots and lots of fresh, clean straw. The barns have all been winterized to make sure the older animals stay warmer, and keep the wind off them. We talked before about the reasons why my farmers remove calves from their moms, and if you follow me on Facebook you’ve heard this story, but here’s an example:


This is Jolly. She was soooo tiny when she was born into the frigid air and her mom wasn’t too interested in drying her off. Luckily my farmer was right there and was able to put her into the heated office with some fresh-from-the-dryer towels so she could be nice and snug. She’s still living there, probably until Monday when it warms up and then she will have her own hutch. 

So what else is new besides winter? Well today I wanted to talk to you about our health care. My farmers work very closely with a team of people who ensure each of us is doing well and has what we need. These people would include our veterinarian, nutrionalist, hoof trimmer, milk tester and a few others. So what if we need something? LIke, what if one of us was to get sick??

My farmer is responsible for our general care. He knows all of us by name and even knows the milk cows just by looking at their udders. Once you get to know someone very well and you work with them all day, every day, it’s pretty easy to spot when something is wrong. Just like you can with the people you’re close to. If a cow is sick she may show it, like her ears may be a little droopy or her eyes a little sunken in, or have a runny nose. Because my farmer knows us so well he can also say things like “This cow didn’t have the same amount of milk as usual” or “she’s normally first in the parlor and today she’s still lying down and came in last”. Those are all clues something may be up, and my farmer watches for those every day. 

Like babies or your house pets, cows can’t tell you what’s wrong with them. It’s up to the farmers to try and figure out. We generally give some clues though. For example, a runny nose and labored breathing are a pretty good indicator of pneumonia. Sometimes cows may get sore feet, or if we’re playing rough in the barn with a herdmate we may hurt a leg. So if someone is limping, my farmer will check their feet for any sores and see what part we are favoring. Cows can also get stomach aches. Maybe they ate something they shouldn’t have. Another common illness when cows are sick is mastitis. This is an infection in the udder, and my farmer can normally detect it by our milk.

Most farmers try and figure out what is wrong with a cow and take care of it themselves before making the call to a vet. If one of our cows is sick, she gets to moved to a pen right by the parlor, filled with fluffy straw so someone can check on her frequently, instead of having to find her in the barn. It’s quieter and her herdmates won’t bother her so she can just rest. The farmers can also offer different feed, for example, if a cows tummy is off dry hay tastes the best, so my farmer can give her some to herself.This is also a good place for the farmer to administer any medicine. Sometimes cows do need antibiotics, but like we talked about before, you don’t need to worry about them getting in your milk.

And then there are the times when my farmer needs help. So he calls in the pros. Our vet is on call 24/7. Why may a farmer need to call the vet? If a cow has difficulty calving, the vet has special tools to help the calf come out safely. Sometimes they may even have to do a C-Section. Most calvings are uncomplicated, but occasionally you get that one that just needs help. (Did you know calves come out front feet first? Then head and then shoulders-that’s the hard part since it’s the widest. Once the shoulders are out, the rest normally slides out pretty easy. But we’ll talk more about that later.) Sometimes cows can also get what’s called displaced abomasum (or a D.A.) This happen when the abomasum part of the cows stomach gets into a spot it shouldn’t be. The cow will stop eating, or eat very little. This generally happens within a month after calving. Just like people, when a cows pregnant, all her insides get squished around to make room for that baby. Once the calf comes out, things start going back into place but there’s a chance that her abomasum doesn’t. It could rise because of gas now that there’s all that room, or maybe she’s not staying full of food. Either way, a vet has to come in and surgically fix this for the cow. Most of the time the cow feels better within a day or two! Those are a couple examples why we may need our vet in an emergency. But when else do we see him?

The answer? Every other week.This time is set aside for our vet to come to our farm, address any concerns the farmer may have, like maybe look at a cow that isn’t sick but not quite right either, talk about how everyone as a herd is doing, and the farmer will give our vet updates on anything new or different on the farm.  Our vet takes manure and milk samples out of certain cows if they need to be checked for various bugs. And the big reason why he comes? Pregnancy checking!

Cows can get pregnancy checked about a month after breeding. Here’s our vet on the job:


There are a few ways to check for pregnancy in a cow. One way is through milk, another is a blood test and lastly is through ultrasound. We use the ultrasound because it can also identify any other issues a cow may have, like we once had one with a tumor, which we would not have known about had we not ultrasounded her. So you see that little thing clipped to our vets hat? It’s a screen so he can see what’s going on on the inside. Like I said, he can tell about a month after breeding if a cow is pregnant or not. Between 55-75 days after breeding he can tell the sex of the calf. Here’s what an ultrasound looks like when the calf is around 60 days:


That is the main body of the calf, you can sort of see where it’s ribs would be. So we generally check the cows around 30 days, 60 days and again about 2-3 months before  they calve (cows are pregnant for 9 months too!) just to make sure everything is going okay. Our vet is also able to tell us if a cow is pregnant with twins, which is important because cows with twins generally calve earlier than nine months, so we would be prepared starting around 8 months. 

My farm mom says she’s jealous of the cows because when she was pregnant she had to drive 45 minutes to get to her doctor and the last few weeks she was going twice a week. She said the cows are lucky they don’t even have to leave their bed and the doctor comes to them! 

My farmers strive really hard to make sure we all have the best care possible and do all they can to keep us healthy. They love the team they have helping them, especially our vets who do all they can to get us healthy as quickly as possible. 

Thanks for the chat everyone! If you have any questions please feel free to let me know, and make sure you follow along with us on Facebook @alittlebrowncow for more updates and our employee of the week on Wednesdays!

~Mut 

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