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.
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.
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.
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.
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.