There's something special about seeing double digits in the lactation number column on the DHIA Lactation sheet. When there's not room for two digits, our Scout program replaces the double digit lactation numbers with stars - a highly appropriate substitution, since any cow who's been around long enough to tally up ten-plus lactations has long since achieved star-status on her farm.

I had hoped to write this column about our star cows last June after Dimple started her tenth lactation and became our first star cow (and only the second star cow of my lifetime; Bo Derek was the first, but that was many years ago).

As is often true with dairy cattle, things don't always go according to plan. Dimple's much anticipated pregnancy ended last February when she aborted twin bull calves four months early. The loss was doubly-saddening.

First, we interpreted the failed pregnancy as a sign that maybe Dimple just wasn't reproductively fit enough to carry another calf to term. Second, since she had carried the twins over five months, the DHIA minimum gestation for starting a new lactation, Dimple started her tenth lactation without any fanfare. I was bummed. Even though the Lactation print-out said 10, it seemed like a counterfeit 10.

The sadness soon turned to joy, though, when Dimple settled again after her second service. Maybe the old lady would deliver her tenth calf yet. She certainly looked like she could. Dimple has a seemingly ageless physique that makes her look years younger than her true age - younger, even, than some of her herdmates several years her junior. Young enough that Glen asked me recently, "Are you sure she's going to be 13 in May? Maybe we confused her with some other cow when we started."

"No," I assured him. "This is Dimple. She's a cow you can't forget."

And, now, we have one more reason to remember this star.

Dimple delivered her tenth calf last week and started her eleventh lactation, earning herself a legitimate star (and a permanent spot in the retirement pasture). Glen helped her deliver the monstrous bull calf and gave her some calcium for good measure, but that was all the help Dimple needed getting her lactation started right. A welcome relief since she had such a rough start after her last calving.

I had really been hoping for a heifer calf from Dimple. Actually, I hope for a heifer calf from every cow, but Dimple is such a phenotypical wonder that the addition of her genetics to our herd is worth twice that of other cows' genetics. I decided after she calved, though, that I was more than satisfied with a live calf and a healthy cow.

Glen made the comment a couple days later that he found it hard to believe that a cow her age could deliver a calf that big, deliver the placenta and go right to work.

What's even harder to believe is that Dimple looks like she could go another 10 lactations. Most of our cows "body down" after their third calf, sometimes not until after their fourth. Dimple just now bodied down after her tenth calf. And her udder is still above her hocks; actually, it's attached so well I don't know if it will ever drop.

Just as important as her youthful structure, Dimple has the fertility to go with it. When she was younger, Dimple calved every 12 months like clockwork. Even now that she's older, she's still never required more than three services to settle.

Since Dimple hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, she'll be bred back again in a couple months. And, hopefully, I'll be writing about her again a year from now to announce the delivery of her heifer calf and her promotion to superstar status.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn., with help from their 3-year-old son, Dan, and their infant daughter, Monika. When she's not farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks[at]meltel.net.