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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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10 thoughts on “Favorite Cows Can’t Last Forever

  1. Touches home. I just lost my old girl a few weeks ago. She was a big old Brown Swiss, almost 13 years old. Bought her as a calf from the farm I worked at in college. It had been a long time since I’d cried over sending a cow, but then I got thinking about all she’d been there through. College, meeting my husband, different jobs, coming home to the farm, my kids… Some of them are just extra special.

  2. On our farm we’ve always said that the favorite cows replace themselves before they leave us. I think Arizona did the same for you all!! So sorry about losing her, that’s always the hardest part of farming.

  3. I cried as I read this. I’ve been through this with my 4 children too many times. We’ve lost the new baby that I brought into my kitchen to cool down (we farm in Florida), and the 17 year old multiple grand champion, and always felt like a family member had left us. As I held the head of one of these favorite working ladies, thanked her for all she had done and gave her permission to go if she must, I held onto the knowledge that she had provided for us and many other humans with her milk and given my children many life lessons. Then I went and hugged her (only) young heifer and finished feeding bottles to all the new babies.
    Your daughter will enjoy that new Braxton heifer, you will find peace with the loss, and you will see Arizona everytime you see her daughter.

  4. So glad she had her first heifer calf for you, and sorry that she had to leave. Favorite or not, it still hurts because you’ve lost that animal and her genetics. We had our first prolaspse back in January, got the vet here and he put her uterus back in, and stitched her up so she couldnt push it out, we were told the next 24 to 48 hrs would be the most critical, pulled the stitches out a week later, and had her on antibiotics just in case there would be some infection, from the time the stitches came out, she died 4 days later.

  5. I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Arizona! It is a part of farm life that many of my city friends will never understand, so by sharing your story, you are helping so many learn! Thank you for sharing your story with us over at Country Fair Blog Party! I look forward to finding out more from you in our February LInk up!
    Jan@ Tip Garden

  6. Wow! Did this ever hit home! My cow, Blosom, was my best friend, therapist, my rock….. (She was also the cow named by Guinness World Records as the tallest cow in the world). May 26, 2015 was one of the worse days ever when I found Blosom unable to get up. I saw her back left leg under and behind her and knew things were bad. Her vets came out to try too help her. I prayed for a miracle. We talked about floating her but with her injury the prognosis wasn’t good. Her size, weight, and age were all against her. We tried the hip lift hoping she would stand and things would be good. Our skid loader couldn’t lift her. My road commissioner brought his big loader tractor and we were able to lift her, but she made no effort to get up. I could tell she had given up and realized there was only one option left. I would not let her suffer and had to let her go. Telling myself it was the last act of kindness I could do for Blosom didn’t make it any easier. I was with her until the end, rubbing her chin as she took her last breaths. I was heartbroken at the loss of my best friend. I miss her everyday and always will. They sure leave a huge hole in your heart! Blosom’s memory will live on since she is in the 2016 Guinness World Records Book, and I have written a children’s book about her titled ‘Everyone Loves Blosom’. I also have a life sized tribute to her here at the farm. Guests can stand next to it and realize how tall she was and why she was named as the tallest cow. Those of us lucky enough to have loved a special cow after truly blessed!

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