Only a week ago, the udder of my cow Katika was slack and wrinkled. I was mystified and alarmed; Katika is supposed to calve in early July — was she not pregnant after all? My unmet internet friend Tricia, a farmer in Western New York, reassured me that old cows might not bag up until very shortly before their due date.
Obviously Tricia was reading Katika’s tea leaves. Over the past week Katika’s udder has suddenly swollen to gigantic, almost pneumatic, proportions.
The udder is so wide that it pushes her hocks out. Her hind legs have developed a swaying side-to-side swing to lift them around the unwieldy bag as she walks. I have taped her rear fetlocks with Vetwrap to keep her dew claws from tearing it as she grunts to her feet after lying down.
The enormous, bulgy udder puts me in mind of Mary Poppins’s carpet bag. At any moment, I might pull a hat rack out of it.
The udder is stiff with edema, teats jutting. The teat that was almost severed in an accident a month ago has almost healed, but clearly the pressure is not helping.
I am going to call my vet today to see if I can pick up some Lasix, a diuretic, to reduce the swelling. I will also gather raspberry leaves, a natural remedy. Katika’s due date is July 3. Last year she calved ten days late. I can’t imagine the state of her udder or healing teat if this swelling increases for two more weeks.
Meanwhile my pastures are green but a close inspection shows they are mostly weeds and wildflowers — very pretty but of little nutritive value. Katika had been looking positively sleek for a dairy cow, but in the past week she has dropped weight and her ribs have reappeared. The other stock are looking a little ribby, too. I have put out hay but to my frustration they will not touch it.
I have more grazing but it is not fenced. Both my children head off to summer programs in the next week. Then comes the holiday and house guests. My hope is that by July 8 I will be able to spend some long days pounding fence posts.
And maybe I’ll have a calf by then!