Last year, just before Katika calved in April, I started a post called Waiting for a Calf. Then a deluge of problems hit, including milk fever, a metabolic disorder that might have killed her. My cow friends on the internet walked me through saving her, but in all the flurry I never posted about the experience here on this blog. Now, once again I am waiting for a calf. I thought I would put up the old posts so readers would know what I’m on edge to guard against.
April 20, 2010. Katika’s udder is larger than I’ve ever seen it. She is waddling as if she has a beach ball between her legs. Or maybe an overstuffed carpet bag.
Since Katika was pasture bred, I don’t have a due date for her. With experience one can make guesses from the looseness of the ligaments around the tailhead, but for most people the more obvious signs are the swelling of the udder and the puffiness of the vulva.
For this reason, many on my internet cow board post close-up shots of their cow’s bags and private parts, asking others to evaluate and predict the time of calving. (Years ago DH walked by my computer as I was scanning some of these photos. He murmured, “More cow porn?”)
I haven’t posted any close-ups but I’ve been watching. Though Katika’s vulva isn’t overly puffy, she’s definitely quite hormonal. A moment after I took this picture she tried to mount the head of my young bull Charlie.
I have been worried by the serious edema (swelling due to retained fluid) in her udder. I was taking pictures today when Katika lay down and I saw a tear. At first I thought her udder had literally split under the pressure!
However, I got her into her stall and it appears to me that she must have stepped on it. In older cows, as in older women, everything sags — and for cows, udder injuries from hooves are not uncommon. Luckily, this wound is not on the teat, but it is close by.
A cut on a teat is difficult to deal with because after calving each quarter must be milked to keep the cow from painful mastitis — yet touching a wound causes so much immediate discomfort the cow naturally wants to kick you or the calf away. Katika, my dear old cow, has never purposefully kicked me. But there is always a first time.
I put some iodine on the wound, so I think it’s disinfected. To calm her down after the sting, I also greased her hot swollen bag with Bag Balm. I had terrible edema with my second child and I remember how incredibly painful the rock-hard engorgement is.
…At this point I broke off to go to barn chores. There I found a host of issues requiring immediate attention, and I never came back to finish the blog entry. Tomorrow I will post about those difficulties in Katika’s calving, 2010.
Meanwhile, in 2011, Katika’s udder is swelling slowly but surely. First to bag up was the quarter injured last summer, when she was kicked in the udder by my Haflinger pony. For almost a week earlier this month she looked as if she were carrying a bowling ball in that quarter, along with three flat, empty purses. Now the other quarters are filling to match.
Katika could calve any day now. I am trying to concentrate on the return of foamy, delicious milk and not on all the things that could go wrong. Still, I’ve gathered all the medicines and have them ready. Tomorrow I will start night checks.