Welcome to Painted Hand Farm

Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.

Search This Blog

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dishing Out the Worst

This post contains stomach-churning images & descriptions.
The right side of Emma's udder which is milking just fine.

I believe that the Universe has a way of testing you before allowing your dreams to be fulfilled and the last few days must be my baptism-by-fire for my long-time dream of wanting to milk cows and make butter. It wasn't enough for Emma to calve a week early in the pouring rain. The heifer calf survived and is aptly named "Gray Skies"...Gray for short.

The next challenge was getting Emma to let her milk down. You see, cows' teats aren't like spigots. They just don't turn on with a squeeze. Any woman who has ever given birth understands the concept of milk let-down and cows are no different.

But Emma just wouldn't give it up. I tried removing the calf (the first choice was to dam-raise) and massaging the udder for a few minutes prior to trying to milk, still only a few squirts would come out and then stop. We fired up the Surge Milker and still no milk. We used oxytocin and got a little more, but not much.

The calf had chosen to nurse the left side which began to milk out fine, but despite repeated tries at milking the right side, it continued to swell and finally Emma's udder split.

The left side of Emma's udder which is a total mess.

No, this wasn't a crack...it's a nasty tear right down to the subcutaneous udder fat. No bleeding, but a lot of weeping. The majority of the serum trickled down over the front teat forming a hard scab and essentially closing up that quarter. I washed the entire area with a mild Betadine solution and called the vet. He set me up with injections of Lasix (diuretic), Dexamethasone (steroid) to reduce the edema and a jar of antiseptic cream.

The morning following the two injections and a liberal dose of cream, the right hind quarter finally let the milk flow.

Needless to say that all this mess on the right side has set up a nasty case of mastitis. Ralph was helping out and made the comment, "Look, she's already producing butter inside her udder!" as the bright yellow chunks hit the bucket. All the color drained from his face when I explained that it was pus...not butter. The milk was fairly chunky at first, but cleared up about half way through the milking. The front teat still refused to open up. I could feel the chunks inside and knew that when that teat opened, it was going to be equally nasty, if not worse. Milk from a quarter with severe mastitis.

The vet suggested I strip her several times a day in order to clear out the pressure and mastitis. Four hours after the first milking, I went out again. The front right had some flecks, but the milk itself appeared fairly normal.

The front right teat finally opened. Foul doesn't even begin to describe it. Putrid would be a much better word. Images and the Internet can do no justice to what came out of poor Emma's front right quarter. The relief must have been welcomed because she gave out an incredible sigh after I got a quarter cup of solid waste stripped out. I only got about a pint of sludge, but I'll go back in a few hours and see what can be stripped out again.

The milk from the right side appears and smells normal. Gray finally got the hang of the bottle and is drinking up everything I get out of the right side as well as some of the replacer I use for the bull calves.

I realized this post has been graphic and a bit disgusting, but this is my experience. No where in any of the books & articles I've read (Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman, Backwoods Home Magazine) is anything like this described. On all the lists and forums, everyone is on their soap boxes about raw milk and the joys of having your own cow, but darn it, sometimes it's just not as easy as it sounds.

This is reality, my reality right now. Is it frustrating and discouraging? Yes, but I believe this is just life asking me if this is really what I want to do.

1 comment:

  1. Not a fun thing to be having to go though. I had a brown swiss cow that did that for about the first three years I had her.