Downed Cow ~ Part Two

In part one, I set the stage for this post, giving the background information on how it is we came to have a cow unable to get rise upon giving birth.  Among dairy farmers, this is often referred to as a "downed cow".  I left the last entry with Princess (momma cow) and Little Man (her newborn calf) being reunited but Princess still unable to stand.  At this point she had been down about 16 hours.

By the time Sunday evening rolled around, Princess was becoming droopy.  She had been refusing food and water for well over 24 hours at this point.  She also appeared to have "given up" on herself and her situation.  I am not sure what it is about nature that causes some to "fight" for life and others to simply give up.  Just as it's true with humans, so it's true with animals that some will not give up until the last breath has been taken while others give up long before they should.  This cow has always been dramatic (as I pointed out in the previous post) and at this point she seemed to be more than ever like the quintessential, pampered "Princess" who throws herself down and refuses to move until things are more to her liking.  I know she didn't feel good and was discouraged, but I have seen other cows in her condition working hard to better themselves.  Again, the general consensus among those who have had experience with Jerseys is that they often have the least amount of will to live when things are not going their way.  They have a reputation be being "delicate" and "temperamental", something one should seriously consider before falling in love with their big brown eyes and graceful conformation.

Princess on Sunday Evening unwilling or unable to even hold her head up.


At this point, it became necessary to use some square bales to prop Princess up so that she did not go flat out on her side and bloat. I propped her up and went into the house to catch a few hours of sleep.  When I returned to check on her several hours later, she had managed to throw herself around and move the square bales.  She was not in a "flat on her side" position but she wasn't holding her head up at all by this point.  I put the square bales in place once again, spent about an hour with her and the calf, and then went back in the house to catch a few more hours of sleep.  This scenario replayed itself several times through the night.  Early on Monday morning, Mike left me sleeping in bed to go and check on Princess for me.  When I heard the farm truck start up immediately thereafter, I knew something wasn't right.  My first thought was that she was dead and he was going to try to get her moved before I came out of the house.  I jumped up, dressed and ran to the barn.  By this time, Mike had returned with the tractor and what I found when I got to Princess was a cow that was laid out completely on her side and absolutely unable to sit up or hold her head.  Mike and I worked together to get her into an upright position but at this point, even propping her up with square bales wasn't working.  We put a rope halter on her and actually tied her head back towards her feet to keep her in the right position and then packed the square bales around her again.  We knew we had to get her up if she was going to have a chance at living, but we now faced the dilemma of how to get her lifted.  I will explain in more detail the obstacles we faced in part three of this downed cow saga, but briefly in this portion, let me just point out that the physical location and dimensions of the building where Princess was located were making it extremely difficult to even get to her with the tractor.  In addition, the deep snow that we had for several weeks had melted and re-frozen enough in that area that even the tractor was slipping on the ice as we tried to maneuver it to make the lift.  It didn't take us long to realize that we were going to have to prep the area before we could even have a place where we could try to lift her.

In the mean time, I had another call out to the vet clinic.  Dr. Mike Cromer, who is familiar with my animals having been my "go to" vet for almost a decade, arrived shortly before 9 am.  I briefed him on the situation and he immediately went to work.  Once again Princess temperature and vitals were taken and everything appeared normal.  Dr. Cromer also agreed that she did not have a full blown case of milk fever (a calcium deficiency) although without actual blood tests, we wouldn't know if she was border line deficient.  We talked it over and decided that the best course of action would be to give Princess some IV's and get her re-hydrated with a hypertonic saline solution to treat the dehydration. We also decided to treat her with Calcium (in the event she did have slightly lower calcium levels ) and Dextrose (used to treat ketosis and/or provide carbohydrates).  Since we wanted to cover all our basis as far as supportive therapy, we decided to give her an oral fresh cow drench as well.  (On a side note, Dr. Cromer said many dairy farmers automatically give this drench to every fresh cow.)  As supportive therapy to address the lameness issue, we opted to give Princess another dose of banamine for pain (first dose given the previous day) and Dexamethasone, a steroid.

(Personal Side Note:  We do not use drugs with our cattle unless absolutely necessary.  I even treat the occasional flare up of mastitis with natural remedies unless I can't get the cow to respond to those natural treatments.  While I know there are people out there whose ideals keep them from using anything but natural remedies with their family cows, when my animals are in a life and death situation, I am thankful for the drugs and medical intervention available and will not hesitate to use them to save the life of the animals in my care.  The information provided here is meant to help other family cow owners in the event they should ever find themselves in a similar situation.  By sharing our experiences, lives can be saved. I make absolutely no apologies for doing what it takes to save the lives of my dairy cows who are also my pets.)

When the fluids, pain meds, and steroids had been administered, the response from Princess was almost immediate.  She was alert, more interested in her calf, and even made a few attempts to get up.  However, she still wasn't able to do so.  Dr. Cromer suggested that we wait several hours before trying to lift her to give the pain meds time to completely take affect.  At this point, I knew that we had a cow that would now work with us to save her life.  The next step was to get things prepped so that we could get her lifted.

Princess after treatment.  Note the difference from the first posted photo.


Note:  Part Three of this series will detail the process of lifting Princess.  



Comments