Favorite Cows Can’t Last Forever

Good cows don’t last forever. If we could make them immortal, I’m sure many of us would. But this isn’t reality. Yesterday we lost a constant on the farm. Arizona had been calling our farm home for nearly the past 13 years.

11140287_430022847178642_8525092270210253850_n

Arizona is the big girl in the middle. 

The spring of my junior year in high school I went to the Ohio Holstein Spring sale. I was looking for a 4-H calf who would in turn be a good foundation cow for the herd I was starting. After scouring a sale catalog, looking at calves and asking for advice from several well known breeders, I settled on a chubby little calf. She came in to the sale ring and we had the winning bid! Little did I know at that moment how long our partnership would last.

Although she has always been a structurally correct animal, her size didn’t come until later in life. We had fun bringing her along to several county fairs. She was never a blue ribbon calf, but she always held her own. I actually had her in tow when I met my husband!

As the years passed she finally grew, becoming one of the bigger cows wandering around the farm. Arizona ended up returning to our county fair as my brothers 4-H project a few times. Once she even won reserve champion Holstein. The going joke was that she was going to be Emma’s first 4-H project. She only left us a few years shy of making it.

1002363_10103278363839505_463712642_n

Getting ready to go to the fair 3 years ago.

Arizona had a very strong pedigree (James x EX 92 dam X 95 pt mat granddam) and had the potential to have solid daughters. She finished up at VG 87 points. However, she gave birth to many, many bull calves. This July she calved for what would be the last time. She had a BIG Braxton heifer calf. She’s one of the biggest calves in her pen currently and shows massive frame potential like her mother.

11222112_459234137590846_3356638426103541504_n

The last baby! Thankfully it was finally a girl. 

Every calving she would keep us on our toes. She was no stranger to milk fever, ketosis, uterus infections… Calving and post partum was not her forte. Every time she would bounce back. The worst time she was down (unable to stand) for 3 days. If you don’t know cows, down cows are a horrible thing to have. Despite our best efforts these situations don’t always have the most desirable outcomes. I pulled in for morning milking on the 4th day and there she was, standing up eating. If you ever encountered her you would know eating was her favorite thing!

Yesterday morning my mom called saying that Arizona wouldn’t get up to come to the parlor. She was laying in a free stall, alert, but unable to stand. Using a set of hip lifts (it is a tool that enables us to use the skid loader to safely and easily move a cow who cannot get up) we moved her to the box stall where she could relax. We gave her a dose of a pain killer in case she was hurting some where.

To look at her you could tell she was done. Her eyelids were heavy, she was frequently laying her head down. Her last hours were spent laying in the sunshine with a warm breeze in her face. Tom fed her and we left her alone for a few moments while we went back to move the TMR mixer. When we came back up she was gone.

10442504_10104467663308835_8601368205017093379_n

We took some pretty amazing selfies together. 

I’m fairly certain we lost Arizona to cancer. A few years ago she developed a lump on her neck. You may see it in some of these photos. The vet examined her and was unsure what it was. It didn’t seem to cause any problems. His only concern was if it grew. We didn’t see any more growth but it didn’t disappear. After calving this lactation, she struggled maintaining body condition. Her milk production was low the entire time. Then a few weeks ago she grew several tiny bumps along the lymph nodes on her back legs.

We can’t make cows last forever. No matter how much we want. After seeing her face come thru the parlor for the last 10+ years it will be weird not to see her. Arrangements have been made for her to be buried on the farm. She will always be my big pain in the butt.

12311293_10106799915092565_6430084901904304741_n

Little did I know 12 years later my kids would be leading that “chubby little calf” around!

Beautiful Weather and Kittens

Last night was an adventure. It was 75 degrees and the first week of November, so naturally we headed outside to soak it all in. After some usual outdoor fun, we went in search of something else to do.

What started as an innocent trek to see if we had an raspberries left after a few good frosts, we came up fruitless and standing in front of the dry cow field. One of the kids favorite cows, Amanda, is currently dry (not milking in preparation to calve) was up by the barn and before I knew it I had kids going over, under and thru a gate to go love on her.

Amanda loves seeking the kids out for attention! Never enough scratches for her.

Amanda loves seeking the kids out for attention! Never enough scratches for her.

The big lug only stood for so many scratches before the herd of dry cows was moving on without her. After some last pats she left us. About that time one of the horses was peaking up over the farthest hill from the barn. We are up to 4 of these animals living here at the moment some how. To the kids there’s nothing better than spending time with them.

The animals at our house have access to just shy of 20 acres of pasture. Don’t fear our herd of horses were all the way in the far corner. I’m sure anyone who drove by during that time thought we were quite the troop hiking out. Two kids running out in front, our crazy dogs and me bringing up with rear with a toddler who had to walk. An unclipped pasture with sporadically placed landmines of cow and horse poo led to some interesting babblings from our littlest hiker.

How far away can we wander...

How far away can we wander…

Our saving grace in this whole excursion was our nieces big bay who recently came to stay for a while. Frosty has had too much training and too many ground manners taught to her to be easily corrupted by our band of delinquents. When she heard us she came trotting right over. Then everyone else followed. You don’t want to show your new guest that you’re rude to your owners, right?

After some time the sun started to go down, it was time to head in. I didn’t care to get stuck in the middle of a field with 3 kids who were scared of the dark. The ever independent toddler decided his legs could no longer work, the middle one had stepped in cow poop (barefoot of course) and the oldest one was increasingly whiny thanks to not adjusting to the time change at all.

Finally, we were on the barn drive. It was nothing short of miraculous. No more than I’m done warning the kids to be careful walking on the masses of acorns beneath our feet and I fall. With the immobile toddler in hand. On hands that still have incisions from surgery. I won’t repeat words that may have been said. When it was over Henry and I were still intact.

While I’m picking myself up and dusting off my pride, I hear the yell of “SQUIRREL!”. There is a thriving squirrel population in our pasture and you have to yell out when when you see one. All of a sudden said squirrel falls out of the tree. I’ve watched many squirrels in the almost 8 years we’ve lived here and I have yet to see one to fall from a tree. After more investigation, our “squirrel”, was in fact a 10-12 week old kitten. Before it’s even out of the tree, our resident 6 year old animal hoarder collector enthusiast is thinking of a name for it and wondering how our cat will take to it. Out of the tree it falls again, this kitten had no grace. I’m fairly certain the noise this animal made upon seeing us and with the speed it darted off with, that was a kitten who belonged to no one.

After the disappointment of no new kitty to take in we finally trudged off to the house to make supper. Our little adventure yielded cow drool on our pants, horse smell on our hands and no new cat in our house.