Ramblings from the Ridge

‘Some days you step in it, some days you don’t’


When he was a little boy, Peter had a print hanging that had this quote on it.

“Some days you step in it, some days you don’t.”

There were beautiful Holstein cows in front of a barn, and the cow in the foreground had her foot in a bucket of milk. When I was milking cows Saturday night and brainstorming with the cows about the topic for this column, the quote on Peter’s print was all that came to mind. 

It’s been a long week in the barn, and there were far more days that I “stepped in it” than I didn’t.

Two weeks ago, good old Ruby calved. I kept her on the straw pack for three days after freshening. She started out her previous lactation with milk fever and spent four days down on the pack before she was a functional cow again. I promoted her to the sand stalls on day No. 4 and took a deep breath. She was coming in full of milk daily; I was feeling optimistic. The next morning, I arrived to be greeted by Ruby, laying on the straw again. IV pail in hand, I told her she had better do her best to rally. She didn’t have the power this time; she injured herself crawling a few feet into the pen. A day later, I said my goodbye, thank you and cut out her ear tag as a memento.

Esther was Ruby’s pen mate for a few days. She came to the hospital with a bad case of mastitis. After giving her the necessary medications, she went on the pack because I was worried about her lack of energy. By day No. 2, she was down and not showing any signs of getting back up. Her appetite was weak, though her eyes were bright. She would drink but not eat very much. Sadly, she joined Ruby in the milking herd in the sky.

I got a call to get Janis from the pen Monday morning. She was thought to be down with mastitis, but once I got her in the stall, I noticed that her right side was swollen. From her belly to her udder, she was puffed up and tender. Upon inspection of her travel route to and from the pen, our best guess is that she got caught on the edge of a gate and was pinched.

The snow that fell in heaping piles and the miserable blowing of the drifts kept us at the farm overnight this past week. The kids had a snow day, which, as any farmer knows, means more helpers. Dane was feeding calves in the calf barn by 5:30 a.m., Henry was plowing snow by 6:30, and Stella hitched a ride to the farm by 8. Stella and I checked sick cows and discovered Liberace, 20 days fresh, with an infected cut on her hock. We escorted her to the hospital, locked her up and used her for Stella’s first attempt at giving an IV.

Chicago popped on the sick list the same day: not eating enough. A day later, she checked into the hospital as well. She is making no milk, age has not been kind to her udder, and lo and behold, now she has a DA. Three strikes. She’s out.

Mimosa and Tom had sets of heifer twins in the past 10 days. Tom was doing great then took a dip for the worse for whatever reason. Mimosa hit the three days post-fresh slump and was Tom’s seatmate on the struggle bus. After vitamins, probiotics and pumping them each 10 gallons of electrolytes with alfalfa meal, they are looking perky again.

Dane (the cow, not the child) was down in the parlor after being milked. She likely jumped the wall from her pen to go party with the younger ladies the night before; her activity chart showed that she was highly active. However, after giving her a sweet ride to the straw pack, I examined and found that this already three-teated cow also had mastitis. My IV skills got a workout that day, as I did my best to put extra love into her veins. She crawled around on the pack until 6 p.m., and I walked around the corner and found her standing up and eating. I smiled, thinking I might finally win at something.

Amber was my third IV in an hour on Thursday morning. Her mastitis, while disgusting, didn’t seem to be affecting her slight temper or her appetite. I stand by the fact that if they are eating within 24 hours of hospital arrival, they will most likely beat the mastitis war.

One of Mimosa’s twins was so curled up inside that her front legs could not let her do more than crawl on her knees. Feisty as all get-out despite being three weeks premature, or on three legs, we gave them to a big-hearted friend. Zorro’s heifer calf must have been in the wrong spot at the wrong time and ended up with a broken ankle.

Poppy and Cambodia came for a visit Friday morning. Both have “wooden” teats. Miserable to milk, darned near impossible to fix, and while they are good looking cows, their futures are less than bright at the moment.

When Sunday rolled around, my day off from the farm, the chair by my sewing machine looked like a pretty fabulous place to spend the day. However, Henry wanted to go out to eat, so off we went to meet the breakfast crew. Their humor, smiles and hugs do wonders for the soul. I most definitely spent most of this week with my foot in the proverbial bucket. I’m hoping this week brings more days that prove to be bucket-free. 

Jacqui Davison and her family milk 800 cows and farm 1,200 acres in northeastern Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira, Dane, Henry and Cora, help 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.


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