Dairy Cow ICU

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!

With the use of head locks and a rope halter we are able to easily confine cows to be treated. This helps prevent injury to us or the cow.

With the use of head locks and a rope halter we are able to easily confine cows to be treated. This helps prevent injury to us or the 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.

As you can see, Collette's one back quarter was very swollen and sore.

As you can see, Collette’s one back quarter was very swollen and sore.

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,ย a cow’s head ย 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.

A cows IV is most commonly ran in to a vein in her neck.

A cows IV is most commonly ran in to a vein in her neck.

Holding a bottle of fluids to help replenish the ones lost to dehydration. I'm a great hand and arm model if I do say so myself!

Holding a bottle of fluids to help replenish the ones lost to dehydration. I’m a great hand and arm model if I do say so myself! You can also see what the box stall looks like.

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.

photo 2 (2)

2 red leg bands are used to communicate to everyone that this cow has received medication and her milk must be discarded.

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 taking a nice long drink.

Collette taking a nice long drink.

Collette responded great to her treatment and has recovered completely. As farmers it is our job to care for our animals.ย Especially the ones who require a little extra TLC every now and then.

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4 thoughts on “Dairy Cow ICU

  1. Fascinating!! Do you have to call a vet for all of this or you are trained to do it yourself? Also when they are swollen like that they still need to be milked? I wondered how that worked if they had mastitis because they would still be producing milk I suppose. So much work involved people have no idea (myself included) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes we do it ourselves ๐Ÿ™‚ our vet is very big on training us to do things. Which is nice because then we don’t have to pay for them to come out as often. When they’re swollen like that they still produce milk, generally when that sick drastically less. We still milk them their milk is just dumped down the drain until the withdrawal is off their antibiotics and their milk looks good. When they feel better the vast majority bounce back easily on production. Lots goes in to that gallon of milk at that store!

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