Eight years ago, Monika fell in love with Star, the little, chocolate-colored Jersey calf that she showed at our county fair.
    Three years ago, I wrote about Star, Monika, and Monika’s growing herd of Jerseys – all descended from Star. In that column, I said, “I can’t help but think that Monika sure struck gold when she picked Star for a show calf five years ago.”
    But gold mines don’t last forever and neither do cows.
    Two weeks ago, Monika said goodbye to Star.
    Just before Star calved, she lost a front teat – either she stepped on it herself or another cow in the bedded pack did. Given what we’ve learned from previous stepped-off teats, this was more than a minor injury. When Lucy lost her teat a couple years ago, she developed a systemic infection within 12 hours and we couldn’t save her. When Amore stepped off her teat last fall a week before calving, she severed an artery; we managed to stop the hemorrhaging by stitching it up, but not soon enough. We lost both Amore and her unborn calf.
    So it’s somewhat of a miracle that Star held on long enough to deliver a live heifer calf and produce enough perfect colostrum to give her calf a good start.
    But shortly after she calved, the teat-less quarter became infected. Star still looked OK, but her lack of appetite told us that she didn’t feel very good – either due to the infection, the pain, or both. (As a fellow mammal, I cannot even imagine the pain level in a situation like that.)
    We made the gut-wrenching decision that Star should go before her condition got any worse. Twelve hours later, we said our final goodbyes. It was heartbreaking. For Monika and for the rest of us. We all loved Star.
    Through the tears that continue to flow when I think about Star and her exceptional life, I can see all of the gifts she gave Monika.
    She gave Monika the gift of friendship. Star was Monika’s best fur-friend for eight years. That’s longer than any other friend Monika has ever had – animal or human. She was the kind of best friend every mom wants for her daughter: gentle, affectionate, and stable. She was always there for Monika.
    Whenever Monika needed a giggle, she would bring Star jellybeans and watch her sort them out of the TMR. When we told Monika that Star wasn’t feeling good, she brought Star some gummy bears. When Star wouldn’t eat the candy, Monika began to understand just how unwell Star was feeling.
    She gave Monika so many opportunities for first-time experiences. Glen called her the teacher cow. She helped Monika earn her first purple ribbons. She was the first cow Monika milked all by herself. She was the first cow Monika palpated – when Glen saw that Star was in labor this last time, he brought her in and showed Monika how to check the calf’s presentation.
    She helped Monika learn about genetics: Star’s first two heifer calves were chocolate-brown like she was. Her next three heifer calves were the more-common Jersey-fawn. At first Monika was confused and, to be honest, a little disappointed that Star had delivered light-colored Jerseys. We explained that sometimes calves look like their dams and sometimes they look like their sires. Monika came to accept – and love – the new-colored calves in her herd.  
    Perhaps Star’s greatest gift is the rather impressive herd of Jerseys she gave Monika. As brood cows go, Star was incredible. All of Star’s daughters, grand-daughters, and great-granddaughters have been as calm and friendly as Star. They come up to us in the pasture for chin and poll scratches. They let the kids lay on them in the barn. And they’ve all taken to the halter like they were born to show.
    Star’s light will continue to shine in those daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. But there will never be another Star.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com