Of all the topics I cover in my columns, I get the most comments and questions about the animal stories I share. Since this issue of the Dairy Star includes our “Year in Review” feature, I figured this would be a good time to provide updates on some of the animals I’ve wrote in over the past.

Dimple is still the youngest-looking 13-year-old cow I know. As I write this, she is recovering from an infection. We’re hoping the fever that accompanied the infection didn’t affect her pregnancy. It took awhile to get her bred back; she finally settled in September. I’m really looking forward to her summer calf and the start of her 12th lactation. We’ll have to wait and see what the vet says the next time he’s out. 

At 14.5 years old, our oldest cow, Dinah, finally retired. After 382 days in milk, it was time. We needed room in the barn and her production was declining. Tears crept into my eyes as I wrote “Dinah – dry” on the calendar in the barn. It was like the end of an era – one that spanned half my life. We talked briefly about selling her, but decided to stick with our plan to let her live out the rest of her natural life here. 

Lindy, Demeter, Daphne, Dreamer, Jolene, and Grace – the six heifers who aborted after being vaccinated (with a killed vaccine) – are all still with us. Lindy is due to calve next month. Daphne, Dreamer and Jolene are finishing their third lactations. Grace, the only heifer we couldn’t milk after she aborted, is in her second lactation and due to calve this summer, too. 

Demeter is dry and will calve in April. Hopefully, she has a heifer calf, because she won’t stay around long after she calves. She had a rough start after she aborted and never really reached her full potential, which is sad because the other heifers who aborted have all turned out to be great cows. 

Ginger, the red heifer who Dan tried to pump when she was sick last summer, still has her mysterious condition. She no longer kneels, but she still walks around on stiff front legs, almost like she has arthritis. She’s grown well and otherwise looks like a normal heifer. She’s housed with a group of younger heifers so she doesn’t have as much competition; I think that has helped her performance. 

She came into heat on her own, so we bred her and she settled right away. She’ll calve in August. We’re not sure if she’ll be able to handle life with the milking herd, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Hopefully, some pasture therapy this summer will help. 

Skippy, our Rat Terrier, is still here, despite my resolve this fall to find him a new home. (I never worked up enough gumption to actually place the give-away ad.) And he still has an appetite for bizarre items.

Just the other day he nabbed the uneaten half of Glen’s orange from the milkhouse and devoured it along with the peel. A couple weeks ago, Dan and Monika left their crayons sitting on top of an upside down pail in the milkhouse. When we all came back in from bringing bottles out, there was nothing left of the crayons except a few crumbs.

While most of the stuff Skippy ingests makes us wonder and laugh, there’s one thing that doesn’t – chickens. When our chickens started mysteriously dying last summer, we didn’t suspect that Skippy was the culprit because the chickens would act sick for a couple days before they died. Plus, we never saw Skippy seriously bothering the chickens. 

One day, though, I watched out the barn window as Skippy attacked the Invincible Rooster. It became very clear what had happened to the rest of the chickens. The Invincible Rooster lost his invincibility and Skippy was put on daytime barn arrest. During the hours when the chickens are out, Skippy stays tied up. Consequently, when we untie him, he’s wild with energy. We’re all enjoying the winter because the chickens stay inside and Skippy stays untied.

Following the advice of a fellow terrier owner, Skippy made a trip to the vet last week. We’re hoping that a little less testosterone in his system will calm him down and eliminate his humping habit; I think the cats and the cows would agree (anything Skippy could get his legs up on was fair game for humping, including cows resting in their stalls).

A chart at the vet clinic showed that, as far as dog behavior goes, Skippy is still a teenager (which explains a lot about his thinking). It will be another year before he reaches adulthood. It could be another challenging year, but we’re in it for the long haul now.

Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children – Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she’s not parenting or farming, she’s writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.