One thing that tends to make Henry super happy is tearing apart toys or anything with screws to see what they look like on the inside. This kid carries his almost 10-pound tool bag with him everywhere just in case he needs it. I try to scout out things throughout the day that he can work on. Believe it or not, toys that have screws these days are in short supply. If I can stay ahead of him and have the next toy ready to work on, I can prevent a potential meltdown. I view his need to tear things apart as a way for him to calm down and have complete control over something. At 4 years old, the things he has entire control over are quite limited. It is far easier to have him tearing apart toys headed for the dumpster than deal with him fighting with Finley because he’s frustrated about other things. It saves me the reaction of a patience-worn-out mother.
    This proactive mentality works with the cows and calves as well. This past week, we had adventures in milk fever. Two very mammoth mommas were down with the ‘S’ curve in their neck and cold ears before they’d even calved. Two others were wobbly after they’d calved and received their Bovikalc. The first girl had an IV of CMPK on a Thursday night, was up and eating Friday, but back down by Friday night. After another IV, this time with CMPK, Vitamin B, and Phos-Aid, she appeared brighter but was still struggling to lift her very voluptuous post-fresh figure. Peter and I decided on using the float tank. If you haven’t heard me talk about our float tank before, it’s essentially a giant hot tub for a cow that keeps them upright and helps their muscles heal. It took four strong men and one slightly strong woman (me) to get her into position on the mat and winch her into the tank. The addition of the steaming water helped her pop up and stand nicely. As she slurped up the water and devoured bucket after bucket of feed, we knew we’d made the right call. She had crawled around the pen for days and struggled to lift herself, but we helped her make light (pun intended) work of it. After 18 hours, they backed her out slowly and Peter proceeded to milk two full stainless steel pails of milk from her. She looked wonderful.
    Our second patient down prior to calving, received the CMPK, Vitamin B and Phos-Aid elixir on her first IV. This appears to be the trick. She didn’t miss a beat. There was no down-a-second-time with her. She was on her feet in five minutes and up to the calving pen. The next giant cow that went down, Peter, Melanie and I went with the proactive approach of using hydrotherapy instead of the pen pack. In her second IV, she had the new additions to the protocol and they parked the float tank in front of her, ready for her to wobble in. She did, thankfully, because the supply of muscles was running low that morning. After eight hours upright and emptying her feeder constantly, we let her out and milked her. The other older cows that calved this week were treated to Vitamin B and Phos-Aid, along with their Bovikalc bolus and oxytocin. A shot now is better than having to IV them stuck sideways in a stall later.
    Another way I try to be proactive in my area is when a new mastitis cow comes for an extended vacation from the main parlor. If she’s a first-calf heifer from the post-fresh pen, I treat all four quarters rather than only the infected one. Ideally this will help lower cell count right off the bat. Before we built our tunnel-ventilated barn, we would pre-treat all heifers. This is putting mastitis treatment in all four quarters. It is a miserable job, heifers hate being touched and many  cuss words were uttered. Rather than have the heifer come back on test with a high cell count, this treatment of all four seems to help.
    We’ve also empowered our night parlor crew with fresh cow care responsibilities. They are a competent, observant team, so this works wonderfully. They now give every cow a Bovikalc after calving and a shot of oxytocin. This helps those cows that may need their calcium sooner than later, and the combination of things helps them have less retained placentas.
    Just like putting sand down on a slippery surface to prevent a potential fall (for humans or animals), being proactive can be a lifesaver. Sometimes it’s the lessons we learn from dealing with the diagnosis of one animal that we can in turn apply to the next one with similar symptoms. It felt good this week to be ahead of the game on our milk fever cows. Rather than our usual reaction of waiting to see if they would get up on their own after crawling around the pen pack, giving them some hydrotherapy did the trick. The night crew’s ability to give cows that extra boost during the midnight hours helps cows out tremendously. As with most things, every new day is a learning experience.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (11), Dane (9), Henry (4) and Cora (adventurous crawler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.