Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mastitis 101

Well. We are not well yet.

Poor Priscilla.

The udder edema is terrific. In a bad way. One quarter (the udder is divided into quarters, so one calls each part a "quarter") has developed what looks like ugly mastitis.

Sunday we massaged and milked to try to empty her udder. Couldn't. We could only get out a few ounces of colostrum and milk. It appeared that she wasn't suffering from a fever, but we kept on working. Later that evening I was home alone and was thrilled to be able to get her up into the stanchion without the help of anyone else. I prayed and massaged and sang and massaged some more. At one point, one quarter opened up and I was able to milk out almost a half gallon of milk. You can believe I was singing "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!"

Unfortunately things hadn't improved next morning so we called the vet again. More massage, more attempted milking. Philip tied up Priscilla's back feet so I wouldn't be kicked in the head and I really worked over the quarter with mastitis. Ugly pus and blood came out instead of creamy white milk.


I wanted to cry it was so gross. I wanted to cry she was in such pain. Priscilla moaned, but submitted to my feeble efforts.

The girls continued to give little Dulce her ration of milk, and Dulce continued unsuccessfully to try to nurse from her willing but unable mother.

The wonderful vet arrived after dark.

Did you know vets still come to make house calls? I was so grateful he came out yesterday evening as I was very worried about having Priscilla wait yet another day for help. We have never called a vet to take care of a farm animal before. Small farmers don't have the resources to call vets for this little problem or that. But Priscilla is no little problem. As I have written before, dairy animals are very valuable and my dad assured me over the phone that this was definitely the time to call in support.

So we went to the barn, put dear Priscilla in the stanchion, and the vet put on his coveralls and went to work. He examined her eyes and nose, then took a look at the udder. He squeezed out milk in 3 quarters and pus and gunk out of one. He smelled the icky stuff and told us that it was a good sign that it didn't stink. Apparently if the mastitis is really bad it will have a foul odor and that is a very bad sign. He told us that we were doing the right things, and that even if we lost one quarter, she should still be a good milk cow. I told him we were praying that she would have all four quarters restored to full function at some point.

The vet suggested that we treat the infection with antibiotics.

You have to understand that we aspire to operate our farm organically, that is to say, chemical-free. We give our animals non-GMO food, hormone-free, no added antibiotics or other routine medicine.

HOWEVER, in situations like this one, I am so thankful for antibiotics. Such an amazing drug when used in the right context. Antibiotics saved my husband's life when he acquired MRSA from the hospital after open heart surgery. Antibiotics saved Maggie's foot when she got a horrific infection from a dirty nail. And antibiotics are helping Priscilla recuperate from this mysterious infection.

My research indicates that no one really knows how cows get mastitis. Some heifers have not fully developed their vascular systems in the mammary glands. Sometimes unhealthy conditions of muck and manure can cause it. Sometimes flies. Sometimes hereditary conditions. Who knows?

We were informed by the doctor that even with the antibiotics, we should continue our hands on treatment. So we learned how to inject TODAY, a special antibiotic, into the teat. And we learned how to inject an intramuscular dose of another medicine. Wow, are we getting smart, or what?

We also learned that the best way to clear up the edema is to continue to massage and milk. Four times a day. Maybe we can save the infected quarter and maybe not. The doctor also suggested that letting Priscilla out to walk around would help with the edema.

So far, no dramatic change. I am so thankful that Philip and the girls took over Priscilla duty this evening so Patrick and I could attend the first session of the Grower's Academy, offered by Virginia Tech continuing education and Catawba Earthworks. He and I are inspired and eager to learn more to share with the family.

I hope that tomorrow will offer a breakthrough for Priscilla. Dulce is okay, but not as bouncy and healthy as Carmelita. We are still supplementing with a syringe because she can't figure out the bottle. Carmelita is now sleeping with Dulce so we can get a full measure of milk in the mornings from Coco. I hope that by next week we will have milk from Priscilla for the family. We have yet to make butter or yogurt or cheese. Everything is going into coffee and hot chocolate and big glasses of milk. And gravy. (and boy, am I happy to have that coffee and chocolate and milk and gravy!)

I wonder if the lesson we are to learn is endurance. Healing often comes with tedious, difficult work. And occasionally with the help of some professional assistance.

Priscilla is worth it.

Off to bed so we can start again tomorrow.

PS We are enjoying warm weather. Dark of the moon, so the skies are sparkling with stars at night. The melted snow has left us a muddy mess. It feels like March, but we know it is not so. Winter has just begun, get ready for more! I think she is sitting back, catching her breath to let us have it. Will we be ready? I hope so!

1 comment:

Webbs said...

I would bet that the mastitis was in part caused by how huge her udder got while waiting to deliver.

I am praying, praying, praying that it clears up soon. Had it briefly with Emily myself and there is NOTHING more miserable!