Sunday, 3 January 2010

Not so happy new year

Another cow down, but this time with either three day sickness or tick fever. Either way, her back leg is stiff as a board with paralysis, and though it's now seven days since we found her at the top of the hill with her calf marming at her to get up, she's still alive, just not kicking.

When we first found her, she looked terrible, shaking and panting and we had to visit the woman down the road to see if she'd be available to put her down - she has a gun and a licence for it - but it being Christmas, no one was home. The vet was also no where to be found and as we'd had a cow recover from three day sickness before, we decided to give her a chance. That's been G-Man's entire festive season, every couple of hours he's headed up the hill to pour water down her throat and offer her lucerne and molassas. And still, she's hanging in. She doesn't appear to be in any pain, just unable to mover that stiff back leg, but I'm getting worried that if she doesn't get up soon, she'll be too bloody weak to get up at all, and it will all have been for nothing.

Makes you think when you're faced with a sick animal. Conventional wisdom says that the animal should be 'put out of its misery'. Sure, she's elderly for a cow, and lack of nutrition has left her immune system low on steam, but she is still breathing and eager to drink, which makes me think that she's still eager to live. Who the hell am I to go reaching for a bullet on her behalf. I know what it's like not to be able to get up for days because of a slipped disk in my back and certainly don't expect anyone to be thinking of putting me out of my misery. We did everything we could to make Geoff's mother comfortable after her fall and consequent broken wrist and pelvis, and my own mother is currently in hospital having had a turn, and no one is thinking of reaching for any final solution for her 'suffering'. So bugger it - we are here and have the time and the patience to make Number 82 as comfortable as possible untill the swelling goes down in the hope that she will get up and walk again.

We've since found out that three day sickness can take weeks rather than just three days. Perhaps it may not actually be three day sickness. Perhaps she lost her footing on the newly muddy slope and fell awkwardly and has broken her hip. On Monday we'll get the vet out to look at her and tell us what her chances are. If it is a broken hip, then maybe the only option is to have her euthanased, but the vet can do it with an injection. After tending to her there is no way I could do the deed. Having looked into her eye for the past week I am comvinced that she is as conscious as I am - a big animal like that has got to have a level of consciousness to match its complexity.

The three month old calf has had no choice but to wean itself, and has thankfully been adopted by another member of the herd who broke through two fences to get to it. take it into its custody and teach it to eat grass and suck water from the dam. Besides, it was impossible (but wildly comical) for us to catch the little critter in the open field, and she's saved us the trouble of poddying the youngster.

Fingers crossed for Number 81.


  1. Awwww, man. That's a hell of a way to see in the new year.

  2. I hope that she pulls through. I don't know how you do it. I'd be crying all of the time ... but, you know, in a hugely masculine Rhino way.

  3. Damn Hughsey (as the hip young people say) that blows chunks.
    Makes me ruminate on the whole domesticated animal thing. When we selectively bred them for what they could do for us, IE produce suculent & tasty calves and cool refreshing full fat with floaty cream milk, we assumed a degree of responsibility for their well being. I have had much dealings with the old school farmers who may strike one as callous & indifferent to animal suffering on first glance, but on deeper study are deeply tuned to the wellbeing of their herd.

    Hoping the best for #81, and happy dance it's raining!

  4. Stephen Breitkreutz4 January 2010 at 1:21 am

    Poor ole cow hope she pulls through dullings !!

  5. Not fun at all. I hope for the best.

  6. I've never met a single farmer who doesn't feel the same way as I do about their animals - it's just that I can afford not to be pragmatic. Our cows are pretty much large pets. You get to know the breeding herd pretty well over the years, and 82 is a damn fine mother. Be a shame to lose her.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  7. She does look a bit thin in that photo. I hope she does pull through.

    I've seen the curiosity and quiet intelligence in the eyes of a cow, and I understand how not being purely pragmatic is a luxury that's come late in human history. I am not sure how I'd reconcile those, or even if I could. Years ago when I stayed on my grandfather's farm, I'd hear all night the cries of the cows whose calves were being weaned, and I can't deny they love their children or that they remember.

  8. Oh, they remember all right - like elephants.
    However, my theory is that it's all for show - like me leaving the brat at day care for the first time. You feel conflicted and compelled to display a certain amount of separation anxiety, but weighed up against a whole day of solitary self interest - no bloody contest. I've seen cow mothers doing the 'oh no, a human took my baby!' thing, then when no one's paying attention , they're off up the hill as far out of earshot as they can get.

  9. Damn. Went up to water the cow this morning to find her dead. Bigger bugger bugger.

  10. So sorry Hughsey

  11. Oh Hughesy, I'm sorry.

    What are you going to do with her?
    My sister always hated it when horses died on her property because it either involved getting the backhoe in to dig an enormous hole or else the tractor, to drag them back from whence they'd come, if it was a neighbour's pet.


  12. So sorry to hear of the loss of your cow. Heartbreaking for you after all your efforts. It's always so painful to see any animal die.

  13. Jesus Christ that's depressing.