If you are a conventional, organic, free range, confinement, pasture based or natural (I’m sure I missed a few “categories”) farmer, one thing is inevitable. No matter how cautious, careful or prevention based you are, you will have an animal become ill on your farm. We do the best we can, but animals get sick.
It is generally a quick treatment and they are back on their way to going about their normal business. Every once in a while, we have a cow who will need a little more TLC to get back in the swing of things. Weather it be from illness or injury, some cows end up requiring some special attention. Farms should be set up to handle these needs when they arise.
At our farm we have an individual box stall where the cows can go. It’s a large pen they have to themselves to lounge around in and recover. While cows are highly social animals, the lack of pecking order when housed separately helps them to focus solely on recovering. I’ll be honest, we may have as few as 5 cows housed in the box stall in a year. It doesn’t happen often, but aids greatly in their recovery if they need to be there. Currently our box stall has been my baby over flow, they are everywhere!
The box stall at our farm is adjacent to our holding pen so cows can easily enter the parlor to be milked. It also has a row of head locks so we can restrain them for treatment if need be. Their feed is also fed thru the head locks. Personal housing also comes with your own water tub and fan. Quite the accommodations if you’re an ailing cow!
Why would one need to confine a cow like this? Meet Collette, pictured above. Collette had a severe case of mastitis. She was running a high fever, had a very swollen quarter with clotted milk and was dehydrated. Just as in people, when a cow is dehydrated they are administered an IV of fluids. Because Collette had an infection she was also given antibiotics, as well as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever in order to make her more comfortable.
When cows are given an IV their heads are restrained. This is done because their IV’s are most commonly given in a vein in their neck. If you have an uncooperative patient, a cow’s head is very heavy to be hit with. Believe me. While no one likes needles, it’s important to remember that just as in people, cows must be treated to recover. Collette would possibly have not survived had she not received an IV of fluids and medicine.
Once a cow has been administered any type of medication, they are clearly marked so all of the people milking know that her milk MUST BE DISCARDED. Milk containing medicine cannot be marketed. All milk, regardless if conventional or organic, is rigorously tested for antibiotics before it enters the food system.
After cows receive IV fluids, the fluids are designed to make them want to drink. This is crucial to their hydration. Sometimes sick cows aren’t to willing to drink so by giving them fluids we are ensuring they do.
Collette responded great to her treatment and has recovered completely. As farmers it is our job to care for our animals. Especially the ones who require a little extra TLC every now and then.