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home : columnists : jacqui davison April 30, 2017

4/10/2017 1:15:00 PM

Jacqui Davison

Puzzles are an important part of my life. In farming, sometimes things happen which leave us confused by the outcome despite the best efforts of our on-farm veterinarian. In the literal sense of a puzzle, well, you should see my house at the moment.
We had a Brown Swiss cross cow that Melanie and I had been waiting for to calve. She had exceeded her allotted time in the transition pen, and we were beginning to think she was open. I bumped her when she visited the parlor for her other oddity; she would prolapse every so often. Now, this wasn't just a little prolapse. It was enough to warrant getting Dad to push it back in and run stitches to hold it in. We were starting to wonder what on earth was going on inside her body that she wouldn't calve. We figured perhaps she was pregnant from a more recent breeding, thus giving her a later due date. She kept getting wider and wider, without her udder ever filling, and Dad's only answer was to wait and see. Finally, two weeks ago with extreme assistance from Dad and Melanie, she had a gigantic dead bull calf.
Prototheca mastitis continues to puzzle us on the farm. We still don't know where it is coming from, or how it is spreading, or if indeed it is spreading at all. It has caused us to sell far too many cows. Cows which look absolutely beautiful and are milking far too much. Perhaps the biggest puzzle where this demon is concerned is that the majority of the cows are flaring with mastitis on their front right quarters. As is a trait of it, they tend to go dry on this quarter after a while and continue to milk great on the other three. Of all the puzzles on our farm, I wish all the pieces to this one would magically come together.
We had gone months without a cast withers or a uterine torsion on our farm, and then had both happen in a two-week time span. The torsion cow had to be sold and the first prolapsed uterus was caught fast because it was in the morning and was fixed up like new. The second wasn't so lucky. She had prolapsed in the middle of the night and wasn't noticed. By the time Stacy and Dad got to the barn, she was already bleeding internally and died within mere minutes. She wasn't even on my radar as a possible prolapse cow. She calved easily, was up and licking her calf fast and seemed fine. It was such a puzzle.
Near the end of February, we had a depressing week, losing three dry cows. Dad and Carmen worked together to perform the postmortem examinations. Unfortunately, nothing of great consequence was discovered. They had died overnight, so most of the excessive internal bleeding and bruising was attributed to the time that had lapsed between death and necropsy. Then a few weeks later, Melanie and Carmen were walking the transition cows for foot trim cows and noticed a heifer with bumps all over her body. She had only been in the pen for 24 hours and was having an allergic reaction to something in the environment. A quick shot of Epinephrine saved her life and she has been fine. We weren't able to figure out what caused her reaction.
This past week, Dad was pulling a calf from a heifer. The calf was in half. When he reached in, he found three legs, and operating on the assumption that it was twins, he started to pull on a pair of legs. Turns out that it was a rare case of schistosomus reflexus; where the calf is folded up and the intestines, heart and lungs are not enclosed by the skin. It is a completely freak experience with no concrete explanation as to why it happened.
In my house, I turn around and there are puzzles on two tables, on a big tray and on the floor. Dane himself completed a 500-piece puzzle in three nights this week. It is his release at the end of the day.
Try as we may in the barn, sometimes all of our puzzle piece searching doesn't add up to a complete picture to solve an animal's ailment or death. While it makes us feel somewhat better to continue to conjure up possible explanations, nothing gives us the sense of peace like completing the picture with an absolute answer.
As the boys attack a new puzzle, they know the end is in sight as the picture slowly takes shape. Even if it is missing a piece or two, they still imagine what the picture is and achieve that feeling of accomplishment. This is the beauty of childhood. Their hardest puzzles come in boxes, that with a little time and persistence, will show them an amazing picture. As we get older our puzzles become much harder to solve. We are never certain how many pieces they will contain or what the final picture will look like.

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