Katika seems remarkably unfazed after the near-severing of her teat and the ordeal of sewing it back on. Cooler temperatures, rain, and a spurt of fresh green grass have surely helped.
Katika turned ten years old on May 12. Though rare cattle may live to be twenty years old, ten is much older than the average dairy cow. Because cattle become more prone to metabolic and other issues as they age, most dairies move them on (generally for hamburger) at five or six. Katika with her box stall and a lifetime of calves at her side is a lucky girl.
However we’ve been through a lot together. Katika has been my “learner” cow. She taught me to milk. And though she’s basically a healthy and hardy cow, with Katika I’ve learned about most potentially fatal cattle disorders: ketosis (my fault), and milk fever (a problem of age).
Meanwhile, though she’s been remarkably free of mastitis, this teat crisis is the fourth serious injury to her udder in three years.
Twice she has been hurt by a hoof to the bag — once kicked by a greedy pony, once struck by an over-enthusiastic teenaged bull. Two years ago at calving time she tore open her swollen udder with the dew claw on a back hoof. Now one teat has had to be sewn back on and is poking out at an odd angle (an ideal teat hangs straight down when full, and points inward when empty).
Though Katika has bounced back from all of these injuries, and I pray will rebound similarly from this one, her udder is definitely losing its youthful appearance.
The cow below right has lost all her udder suspension. Katika is not quite this bad, but she’s on her way.
When I look at dear old Katika, I remember the great line from Ralph Moody’s childhood memoir, The Fields of Home, in which he describes an old cow circa 1915:
“Her udder looked like a half peck of potatoes in an old cotton bag.”
Now we are in a race to see if the teat can fully heal before Katika calves again in July.