I had a cow, once.

I had a cow, named Ferdinand. Given to me by my mom’s friend who became a priest, I think because of her; he was a large, orange, stuffed bull. I carried him with me for years and years, during and after my “Can I be your dog?” phase, which landed me on all fours for a couple of years, knowing indeed I was a dog. Noone in gym class could gallop on all fours across the gym floor like me, when everyone was supposed to be “doing the crawl.” I beat the hell out of those losers, the only time I could ever beat anyone, in anything.

Didn’t know much ’bout cows back then, or them loose-hipped heifer types. Still don’t know nothin ’bout them bull types, neither.

There has been a request by a new “cow person” for showing our herds. So with everything that has been going on, and my neglect of recording any of it in a long time, I figured to travel down that bovine memory lane for a bit.

I was lucky enough to grow up with horses, barefoot and bareback, but no cows were in our herd. My mom, who was afraid of everything, would roll up the reins of my first ancient horse, Navaho, in the window of her car. Sitting inside so I could climb on the roof of her car and jump on him, she would indulge my need for pets. I gathered, snakes, mice, hamsters, rabbits, ducks… a rat named Algernon, a skunk that I caught as a baby, who sprayed me along with his mom and brothers and sisters, but I would not let go. She took me and my baby skunk to the vet to have him deodorized. Deodorizing me took a bit longer.

Enter: the man, when I was 24, and he was 30. He grew up on a family dairy farm in Holland, which was too small for them to receive the government subsidies at the time for small farmers to become huge dairy farmers, and the small farmers were pushed out. The man came to America from a small newspaper ad placed by Germans that owned a thousand acres in East Texas. He was to make a cattle ranch for them, clear the land, build fences, make hay, buy cows… all while speaking little english, wearing wooden shoes, and bearing the Texas heat in 1980 when the temp did not fall below 100 for over 30 days, living in a shack with no ac.

We met in ’86 and eloped four months later. He always said, “Vouldn’t it be great if we had dairy cows someday?”  I most emphatically said that was out of the question.

This was my vision of what it would be like, and actually I was not far off.

After being out of work several times, we finally started our own flower shop in Dallas, after the company he was working for went bankrupt. We grew it out of pure ignorance and hard work, from just the two of us, to over 100 employees during peak times.

A few years later we bought an old farm, 60 miles from Dallas, and would commute to the flower shop everyday. He started buying tractors and cows. Never let the man go to an auction, especially if he drove to the auction pulling a big trailer. We went to the State Fair one year, and he bid on, and bought, 40 registered Brahman cows and more beautiful tiger stripes. Brahmans can be extremely mean, and several would attack us and sail right over the working pens.

Enter: the groover, in 1998. Here she is with some Brahmans and my dear dad, learning to milk our goat.

The Brahman calves were even more fragile than dairy calves, and many times if they were born during a cold spell, I would have to put them in the cab of the truck with the heater on, and park in the sun to warm them up. Sometimes I would camp out with the cows when the man was gone, to protect the newborns from the vultures, who would attack the newborns and eat their eyes out. The man would buy hundreds of young steers too, which we would raise out on winter wheat.

We sold the farm in Texas, and the flower business and moved to Colorado. As luck would have it, the day the fancy Brahmans and Tigerstripes went to auction, they closed the auction after ours went through, bringing pennies on the dollar because of a huge mad cow scare that had just popped up in the news. The huge mountain of gold, in stock, we got for our flower business also completely disappeared before we could sell any of the stock, so we sold off most of our Colorado ranch and moved back to Dallas to start another flower shop from scratch, living in the office for two years until someone turned us in, so we rented an apartment.

After another 8 years or so of doing that and visiting our place in Colorado for a bit in the summer, the man said he wanted some sheep so he bought some. I knew what that meant, that our daughter and I would get to stay, as livestock needed a keeper, and we could not bring them back to Dallas. We did have as much livestock in Dallas as possible, but I still had to drive two hours one way to get our raw milk.

Our rooster, Ron Paul, wanted to visit Ron Paul.

Our new flower shop was beautiful, the man practically built it himself, and we lived inside our new shop.

I saw an ad on Craigslist for an American Guinea hog, so fat and lame that she had squished all but three of her new piglets, we hooked up the trailer, traversed over a non-trailer Cinnamon pass, for jeeps only, and by the time we got to Durango, I was a wreck. The man can drive over anything.

photo by Natanielle Huizenga

We stopped at the lovely James Ranch for a hamburger, and the owner chatted us up and said he had a milk cow that needed to go in our trailer with the porkers, hmmmm. Her name was Gert, she was 10 years old and due to calve in three months. We loaded her up and a baby steer calf that was not hers, but needed to go.

Two weeks later the man comes inside and tells me Gert just gave us a beautiful heifer calf. I had never milked a cow, but the man is a human milking machine. He taught me how to hand milk her and in two days he was back in Dallas, and I had a four gallon a day milk cow.

Almost two months later, I was milking her one morning, and she acted wobbly and her eyes were acting funny. I finished milking her, and when she was walking away, she stumbled and so I ran inside and called for a vet. Vets in our area were very hard to come by, and certainly no vets that understood dairy cows. Our daughter, the little girl groover, and I frantically pulled and pulled her, trying to free her head that had fallen twisted behind her when she fell against the fence and went into seizures. The vet got there in an hour, about 5 minutes too late. It was grass tetany I later learned.

So back to the James Ranch for a nurse cow for baby Becca. The man gets home in about three days and we go get dear Annabelle.

She lets Becca nurse, saving her little life, but only from behind, and she pooped on her head every time. I was hooked and bought Elsa, the killer cow.

After not even having to tie up Gert or Annabelle to milk, both Elsa and I had enough, and sorry to say, we ended her misery and processed her into dog food, but she gave us dear Faline.

I went through a Highlander phase.

Becca grew up with her dear foster mom Annabelle, and lots of others, and had her own baby, while Annabelle lost one of hers at birth, when the man was gone of course.

photo by Francie Ivy

Annabelle had another baby, but that afternoon I was checking on her, and she was wobbly. I ran to get my neighbor, and he saved her with an IV of calcium and she got back on her feet from milk fever.

It was terrifying. That night after a couple more bottles of oral calcium… she was stable, but I foolishly let her stay in the meadow with her baby, instead of in the barn. The next morning she lay in a small depression on the hill with her feet uphill, and could not get up. No vets could come, so our dear friends came with cmpk and got an iv in her. It took all day to get her up, and I finally gave up, walked away and heard the groover yell out to me, “Mom, look! I got her up!”

Everyone was overjoyed, especially her dear one day old baby.

The next morning she lay in the barn, weak with ketosis, which I did not know what that was then, and the man and groover had left for Dallas. No vet would come, but I was able to find her vein and give her a bottle of dextrose. She still could not get up, and so I held her propped up against me and hay bales and I prayed for help to come. All day, laying with her, her baby would come in and nurse her while she lay there, and the other cows would come in to lay with us and visit.

A neighbor promised he would come and check on me and help me, but he never did. Alas I could not save her, and another dear neighbor came and had to shoot her, as I had no other choice and wanted to end the suffering.  My heart was so broken, and still, somedays I’m broken, and somedays I’m mended.

But dear Becca understood. Becca had been saved by Annabelle when she lost her mom as a baby, and now Annabelle’s baby had no mother.

Becca adopted that baby that very day, as her baby was one month old, and she raised them both as her own.

photo by Francie Ivy

Over time, I fell in love with Guernseys and we bought dear Eleanor. I doctored her for months, finally clearing up a bad udder wound she had when we bought her, and then dried her up to prepare for her new calf to be born.

lots of other life on the farm too.

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photo by Natanielle Huizenga

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photo by Natanielle Huizenga

But heartbreak after heartbreak, dear Eleanor was dead in the meadow one morning, two weeks before her calf was to be born.

The man said we could drive over 24 hours one way to pick up three Guernsey heifers and we came home with a baby Brown Swiss as well.

All of them were pretty poor, and seemed like we would lose Tipin and Acacia, but they survived.

photo by Francie Ivy

Lillian later had twins, and a bad case of metritis.

This is dear Acacia, who always had trouble. She had a very high fever after getting her home, and the vet gave her two doses of Exceede. She always had seizures, acted strangely, and hated all the cows and they did not like her either.

But she managed to raise a calf, through daily seizures and bad behavior, breaking her tail in the process.

Tipin made it through her severe malnutrition, pink eye, and never cycling, and kept growing and growing into the largest milk cow I have ever seen. Gentle Giant.

We moved to a warmer part of Colorado about a year ago. Sadly, the man made me sell all of our 70 sheep and lambs, as you can’t have sheep without good fences.  He was right.

Tipin never could get pregnant, but had a mummy calf, and I have been milking her for over a year. We are hopeful she will have a real pregnancy soon and I can dry her up.

We bought Omen in Nebraska and she had a bull calf, Monte, last spring.

I knew it was a rescue, but I bought dear Adeline from a woman that had trouble with her getting beat up by her other cows and she had a severe nerve issue. She was walking much better on our place when we brought her here, but she had a hard quarter that I did not feel when I bought her. I knew she would freshen with mastitis, and I was right. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, ugh, a very nasty antibiotic resistant bacteria.

I desperately tried everything to save her, but her nerve issue grew much worse, and she got to the point where she no longer could walk. Nothing could be done but to put her down, and we did not have the heart. Our hunter neighbor agreed to shoot her.

He had put down many elk, cows, and horses in his time, and brought a very big pistol with 6 bullets. The groover held her baby far away on a leadrope so he would not see, and I stayed with her. After three shots, she was still up, ugh. After two more, the men were reeling, and I was pretty much covered in blood. I lay down crying, and the men started walking away from her and towards me. I look up, and she had gotten up and was charging towards them. Another man grabbed the gun and put the last one in her head. She went down, but was still up on her haunches. I stayed with her, as they had no more ammo, and our neighbor went to get a bigger gun.

He came back with a big rifle and two more bullets. She did not go down after the two bullets. The man went home and got his big rifle, and his only bullet, and that finally put her down. After thirty minutes and 9 bullets, we all were toast, and it really broke me.

The man buried her and we found a new home for her dear calf.

Somedays it is hard to weigh the joy and pain of having dairy cows, but we feel the joy is worth it, and we dearly love them.

Then I had a major scare with the deadly staph aureus, antibiotic resistant bacteria, that both Tipin and Omen got. I was testing Adeline’s milk during her treatments, and decided to test Tipin and Omen’s milk, though both of them had no symptoms of mastitis at all. The standard protocol for staph aureus is to kill or cull, as the cure rate is 20% at best. No way was I going to do that.

I had three vile stories about staph infections. One, was my dear mother who contracted staph aureus in the hospital after her gall bladder surgery. It got in her blood from her IV, she went into a coma and died, as they could not get rid of it.

Then one of my dear employees contracted a large staph aureus boil on his leg, brought home from his children’s gym at school, and his whole family got it on their skin. I was a big fan of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide, gave him some and told him to disinfect his entire home, all his family, and their boils (diluted to 3% strength of course.) Nothing the doctors gave them was working, but over time the hydrogen peroxide did the trick.

The last one was the vilest. We did lots of flowers for the fancy pants of Dallas and beyond. Big deal. After his Presidency, #43 moved to Dallas and bought a McMansion on a pretty regular street. I also did work for Oprah, lots of other fancy pants, and his father #41, blech. We had to have secret service clearance of course, big surprise how we passed that, but the man liked to mess with them and on the intercom to get clearance to the street where they lived they would ask us where we were going. “To George and Laura’s” he would say, which was not very respectful.

One time “Pootie Poot” (Russian President Vladimir Putin) bought Laura lots of flowers for her birthday and I had to arrange them there for her dinner party. We were in the kitchen and in walks W, in shorts and a NAVY t-shirt. Shakes our hands and says, “Man, I just got back from India with a bad staph infection on my ass.”

Hmmm. If it had of been Cheney, we would have never shaken his hand, but it is one reason that I wear sterile gloves when I milk now.

To make a long boring story, even longer, I actually did save the cows from their staph aureus infection, much to the shock and disbelief of many.

Enter DMSO, that I have most gratefully learned about from some dear cow owners that used it to cure their cows. There are so many things I have been learning this last two years, but have been overwhelmed to write much about it all.

This year is the most severe drought this area has experienced, and water and grass are in very short supply. We found a remote meadow with grass and water, and bears and lions, and our cows have been happy there this summer.

Omen calved there with no trouble a month ago, and Acacia was to calf any day now. I had been milking there with a generator, and could milk the other cows without even tying them up, but Acacia is another story. She had neurological problems all her life, having seizures and other strange behavior. She always was a killer to milk, so I always tied her leg back during milking. The man bought an old trailer and had it fitted out as a secure milking stanchion so she could not kill me when she calved.

Acacia continued to have her seizures, and trances.  Sometimes she would just walk straight into the electric fence, and just stand there.  A few years ago, she walked straight into the rushing, three feet deep river, with snow on the ground, and just stood there in the water on the other side.  That was mighty hard getting her back across, but the man can do anything.  Since her tail has been broken, I clean her up everyday, as she could not lift her tail to poop.  She did get more movement in it, and I am glad we did not let the vet cut it off, as cows need their tails.

I could always approach her from behind or her side, and brush and scratch her, but from the front she would butt anyone away very hard.  Even Omen’s dear baby calf tried to love her. “Hi there. What is your name?’ he would say, “You are pretty…” but before he could get the words out she would pummel him into the dirt.

We were ready, and the man has been checking on her every morning at 5 am. On Tuesday morning I went with him at 5, but she had already calved, and we were about thirty minutes too late. Even the man cried. We had so hoped for a calf for her to love and to have someone love her.

Alas, I knew she would freshen with mastitis, as one of her quarters was hard. I have tried everything, but she is a fighter, and continued with her seizures… and not even oxytocin could make her let her milk down.

Yesterday was too much. I gave up, and really so did she. Milking twice a day, and treating her and stripping her out, she kept fighting and fighting. To top it off, Omen was in heat, so the bull and Monte and the other steer calf were fighting and jumping and broke down the corral she was in, so she could eat alfalfa in peace after I milked her. I ran out of the trailer to save her, hit my head on the bar I had Acacia’s leg tied to, and almost gave myself a concussion.  All I could do was to cry for 30 minutes, which did not help the situation.

We could no longer see her suffer, and so this morning the man left in his tractor, pulling the trailer to that remote meadow and loaded her and big, bad year old Monte on the trailer. Our dear friend is borrowing the man’s excavator, where he buried her calf a few days ago on his property.

Gratefully he agreed to put Acacia down and bury her next to her dear baby, ending her life of loneliness and suffering, and in return he is going to put Monte in his freezer for his family. He said that she had another seizure in the trailer.  It was best to let her go, and best I was not there at one more death.

So now our herd consists of a big Guernsey bull, soon to be sold when everyone is bred, Omen and our new herd baby bull named Bear, Tipin, Lillian and her calf Mitch, that will go in our freezer this winter, and two holstein calves that are drinking our extra milk.  They will go to Powderhorn to the family that is buying our place there, and will go in their freezer someday. Thankfully we still have that place, as we could not hay our meadows here due to the drought.  In a couple of weeks we will go there and bale that good hay there.

So, that is way more info, in return for a request to show my herd, but it was good for me to travel down that road, even on this sad day.

#acaciaismyspiritanimal

2 thoughts on “I had a cow, once.

  1. I honestly can’t comment except to say, “How have you managed to live thru all of this?!! This is truly amazing!!!

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