A Good Cow Gone

When it comes to our cows, we talk a lot about the good – new baby calves, fresh heifers, etc. Unfortunately, not everything that happens with the cows is good. It’s a fact of farming that animals die. We don’t like when it happens, and we don’t like to talk about it. We prefer to quietly reflect on their absence. That’s not because we don’t care. Actually, I’d say that it’s because we do.

A few weeks ago I had a brief twitter conversation with Diana Prichard, a hog farmer and freelance writer from Michigan, about why farmers don’t like to share about death. I suggested that perhaps we felt responsible, even when we had done our best. Diana wrote a really nice blog post about the subject. When we lose an animal, we question everything, but mostly ourselves, searching for an answer and a way to prevent it in the future. I thought about writing my own post at the time of the original discussion, but I just didn’t quite know what to say. Death is hard to deal with, and as Diana notes, it’s not fun to write about.

This week, however, we lost a great cow, one who I think deserves to be mentioned. Number 760 wasn’t flashy, but she milked well and she bred back time and time again. She didn’t have a name other than “Seven Sixty”, but she was special just the same. She was about 8 years old when she started her 5th lactation in April. After a bad case of mastitis, she lost a quarter, but for the last few weeks she had seemed to be on the mend. Tuesday morning, however, she was gone. I shared the news on twitter – many farmer friends acknowledged that this was the hard part.

On Saturday, while walking through the pasture bringing dry cows back to the farm, I saw an ear tag on the ground. This tag had been lost and replaced months ago. I don’t know why it was where it was this weekend, but I was glad to see it.

Thankfully, as I told those friends, 760 left us a legacy. Last month we started milking 1087, her first daughter out of the bull Aftershock. Although 1087 was almost 3 at calving, she looks good so far. Later this year 760’s second daughter will calve, number 1130 sired by Boulder. Her last calf was also a heifer, number 1212 sired by Ryker. Now we can only hope that these daughters will each give us several lactations and several 760 granddaughters. We miss 760, but we also appreciate her 8 years, 3 daughters, and everything else that made her a cow worth writing about.

6 thoughts on “A Good Cow Gone

  1. This reminds me so much of losing a great cow earlier this year. When I first started documenting her troubles I honestly thought she would recover. I would have a nice story about the events. But it didn’t turn out how I would have liked. Then I wasn’t going to tell the story at all. But some followers on facebook and twitter said to post it to help others who might learn from the symptoms. Here is the post.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Judi. I remember your tweets about Tempest. It’s so hard to figure out what’s wrong when they can’t tell you what they’re feeling. We DHIA tested the evening before we lost 760, and we found out two days too late that her cell count was through the roof. May or may not have made a difference if we had known.

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