So I have good news and bad news. The good news is that both my cows Dorrie and Moxie are indeed pregnant. The bad news is that Moxie’s mastitis sample showed no pathogens.
What, you say? How can that be bad news?
Look at that middle sample. It’s obviously not normal milk. Yet the broad-spectrum testing showed nothing. When I got the results by email Friday evening, my heart dropped. I had been hoping to hear a definitive diagnosis that would indicate the use of a specific med that would lead to a complete cure for my dear cow.
At first I believed the testing must have been faulty. Last night, however, I spoke to the cattle veterinarian, Dr. Michael Coe, at the Oregon lab (Animal Profiling International). He kindly spent half an hour talking me through the situation. (For free! On a weekend! I was impressed by API.)
There is still a possibility that something was wrong with the sample, and I may send another from the bad teat on Monday. However, the lab itself was puzzled and ran the test on both of Moxie’s samples (the mastitis sample as well as the remains from the pregnancy sample from a different teat) and found nothing. Zilch. Zero. The test scans for DNA and so should pick up any amount of the sixteen infections the lab tests for. Of course it is possible Moxie is suffering from something rare, but the vet does not think so.
Here’s what Michael thinks is going on. He believes she probably had an E. coli infection in the teat and I successfully treated it with Today. (He congratulated me on her care because severe E. coli infections can kill a cow.) However, he also believes that by the time I stopped the E. coli, the infection had scarred the inside of the teat. (From my reading, I believe an E. coli infection destroys some or all of the alveoli, shown left.) He believes her teat will never be normal again.
This is a blow.
I hope it is not true.
Michael reminded me that most dairymen have one or two “three-teated” cows. James Herriot’s Yorkshire farmers were philosophical about cows “firin’ on nobbut two cylinders.”
But I don’t want it to be true for sweet and patient Moxie.
Edited after chores to add: I am glumly resigned. I think Dr. Michael Coe is correct. He told me that one of the signs of E. coli is “milk” that is clear fluid slightly tinged with blood. That was the look of the pre-treatment sample that I had discarded when my vet couldn’t run a test on the weekend. Michael guessed that the sample I sent him no longer had blood because I had successfully killed the E. coli.
This morning, before letting the calves nurse, I milked that teat. It is virtually empty. With some work I got about a tablespoon of “milk.” It was clear. Sigh. It seems fairly certain that E. coli has destroyed that quarter.
During our long discussion last night I had told Michael my worry that the problem was staphylococcus aureus (which forms internal abscesses). I had been concerned that staph aureus was the cause of the meaty lump in the quarter. However, he confirmed my guess that even an internal abscess sheds cells that would have been picked up by the lab test. Moreover the milk sample would have looked quite different. The meaty lump in Moxie’s quarter is most likely scarring. It will not be painful, but it also will not resolve and go away.
In one sense, E. coli is good news. Staph aureus is very hard to control and highly infectious. If Moxie had staph aureus, the calves would have spread it to her other teats as well as to Dorrie. Then, too, E. coli makes sense. In my mind I have always joked that it’s a good thing Moxie is a nurse cow, as her favorite sleeping spot is generally on top of a cow pie and I often have to scrape thick gloppy manure off her udder just to enable to calves to nurse.
Still, I’m sad to think any of my animals is permanently injured and I’m sad my little Moxie has lost a quarter when she’s only five and a half.