The life and death of our cow

Sigh. Time to choke back the tears and tell you all about the last few days at Salt Fork Farms.

Sunday morning, as I had hoped to sleep in as a Mother’s Day present to myself, Eric shook me awake whispering, “Maple had her calf.”

“Really?? Let’s get Milo up and go see the calf!” I replied. We headed up the road to Jeanne’s and found Maple standing off in the field nursing her new babe. Eric worked on leading Maple up to the barn, and snapped this great photo in the process.

For those of you who don’t know about Maple, she came to live with us in October of last year. When we brought her to Jeanne’s we thought she was somewhere between 5-7 years old. We also knew she was bred and should be having a baby in May. She spent her time in the west field. Often mooing at bikers as they climbed the hill on Sutliff Road. Sometimes she could stand still enough and time it so it would scare bikers. It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “oh my goodness, there’s a cow there!”

Eric has been fortunate enough to have a mentor right up the road, Bill Ellison. Bill has farmed since he was born. He has had a Grade A Dairy, he had raised cattle, sheep, pigs, chicken, and grown his own grain to feed these animals. Bill and Eric worked together on Bill’s farm for over 3 years. Bill is a treasured resource for us. Eric immediately called Bill to tell him about the new calf. We all spent Sunday marveling over the calf. Eric and Bill were careful to watch Maple for signs of hypocalcemia over the first 24 hours.

Hypocalcemia, or Milk Fever, is caused by a massive release of calcium due to milk and colostrum production, usually occuring within 24 hours of birthing. Bill and Eric have seen Milk Fever 2 or 3 times in the last 4 years. Unfortunately, Bill lost a cow to Milk Fever 2 weeks ago. Bill and Eric were devistated.  Milk Fever is more likely to happen in Jersey cows after their fifth or sixth calving. Milk production increases with each birth, making it harder for the cow to replace calcium as quickly as needed. Also, if a cow experiences an episode of Milk Fever, subsequent episodes can be worse than previous episodes.

On Sunday night Eric called saying, “I called Bill and the Vet. Maple is showing signs of Milk Fever.” I waited anxiously to hear from Eric again. An hour later he called telling me,”Maple’s okay. The Vet came and put in an IV and gave her some Calcium Gluconate. She’s doing okay. I’m going to stay here and watch her for a while.” Around 11pm Eric made it home, exhausted.

Monday was farm life as normal. Eric continually checked on Maple and the calf. Some friends came out to see the new calf. It was a beautiful day.

This morning, as Milo and I snuggled in our chair reading books, Eric called. There was panic in his voice. “She’s down again. I called the Vet. I just wanted you to know.” I choked back the tears as Milo and I finished reading. 90 minutes later Eric called again. He didn’t say a word. I only heard sniffling. “She died?” I asked.

“Yes.” he said.

“I’m so sorry, Eric. Is Jeanne there?”

He said yes, then we sat in silence for 3 or so minutes.  He continued, “The Vet came and gave the treatment like last time, as well as some dextrose for possible ketosis due to the fact she’d been down so long.  She also worried that Maple would not be able to properly ruminate in the position she was in.  Jeanne and I helped administer the calcium and the dextrose and the Vet left, saying only that we should call back if she did not get up in the next few hours.  Jeanne and I just watched her die.”

“I have to find the calf a new mother.” Eric said. Bill and Eric talked for a good while. Thankfully, Bill will help Eric with Maple and the calf today.

We will miss you Maple. Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives. We hope you enjoyed your time at Salt Fork Farms.

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About saltforkfarms

A small organic farm in Iowa that raises Standard Breed laying hens and hybrid broiler chickens suited for a pasture-based system, as well as varieties of vegetables and fruit suitable to our Eastern Iowa climate. We grow food, we eat food, we sell food!
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10 Responses to The life and death of our cow

  1. Berit says:

    No! I’m so sorry. Tears.

  2. Kim d. says:

    So, so sad! Thanks for posting the whole story, makes us feel a little closer to her. Hope W.G. Does ok without his mama.

  3. Christian says:

    Eric and Eve, so sorry to hear Maple is gone. Thanks for showing me what a day on the farm is like and for sharing Maple with me & so many others. You guys keep up the good work out there and thank you for this blog…

  4. Matt Khalil says:

    Sorry to hear that. I’m glad I met her.

  5. Teri says:

    Eve, Milo, and Eric, so sorry for your loss. Thinking of you

  6. Thanks everyone. Eric fed the calf some colostrum we had on reserve and moved to over to Farmer Bill’s place. The calf will stay there until he is weaned. We are hoping that one of the other mama’s at Bill’s place will continue to nurse him. Otherwise we will make the trip down the road to bottle feed him a couple times a day.

    As far as Maple goes, Farmer Bill and our friend Mr. Kroul came over and helped Eric and Jeanne bury her. It’s just amazing how something like this can be so emotional.

    ~eve

  7. driverson says:

    we’re so sorry for your loss! It’s a powerful thing to watch life pass out of a being. How wonderful her passing was eased by such compassionate souls.

  8. jp says:

    So sorry. So hard. Wishing the best with the calf.

  9. Amy says:

    Oh Eve. We love you guys.Maple was a wonder. We’ll miss her too

  10. anti jen says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Eve. That’s got to be the toughest part of farm life.

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