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Life on the farm, part 4,083 and continuing....

I recently spent three years doing various apprenticeships to pick up skills for homesteading. One of the farms I worked at was a goat cheese establishment with a couple of cows and a large goat herd. This is an account of a few days that really happened, and even though it was on a small commercial farm, the similarities to homesteading are great! (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Monday, February 1st, the vet came for three things. Bessie the Jersey cow was way overdue and we were beginning to worry about her. We had bedded down behind her stanchion for several days now and were anxious for the calf to come. Lulu the barn cat was having trouble peeing and cried each time she tried to go. May, the dairy goat who was due to kid any day, suddenly had grown a huge abscess on her udder. Because of the expense of a farm call farmers like to have several things for a vet to treat, so this was a good assortment.

Well, the vet palpated the cow from the inside and said the calf was still underdeveloped and would not be born for several days. She referred Lulu to a local office/small animal vet for treatment. May, she said, would have to be put down because of the danger of a serious abscess outbreak in the dairy herd. She could do that for us but couldn't dispose of the body. It was the dead of winter and there was no way we could bury her, but the local vet had a way of disposing of May.

Lulu went to the local vet that afternoon. He started her on antibiotics and said to confine her for a urine sample. We made arrangements with him to take the goat the next morning when we brought in the sample.

Tuesday was below zero when we went out to the barn to start morning chores. A late-night self-service customer had left the door to the cheese room open and the pipes in the tank/wash-up room were frozen. They had to be thawed and repaired before we could start milking. Bessie had delivered her calf during the night, without bedding, and the little feller had scrunched far away from her and had a below normal body temperature. We tried to warm him up and get colostrum into him and keep him in front of Mom, but he wasn't born with the health and strength to make it. He wouldn't drink and Mom rejected him as though she knew. She had always tried to mother anything smaller than herself but not this time. Jersey calves are all eyes and eyelashes and slobbery tongues and are #10 cute, so it was heart-wrenching to see him die slowly, gasping for breath he couldn't handle. We couldn't help him but didn't have the courage to help him die easily.

Lulu had spent the night in the first stall, the only place in the barn we could shut up completely. She had gone crazy and had knocked stuff off the workbench and made a mess of the place. But she hadn't peed.

The vet who was to take May went to the hospital Tuesday morning with a heart attack, so May stayed alive and Lulu wasn't examined again. May's abscess looked ready to pop and we had no safe place to isolate her from the rest of the herd. Phone service in the whole town happened to be out on Tuesday so it was very difficult to find a vet who could put her down and take the body. We had to go to a friend's house in the neighboring town to make phone calls.

A veterinary school about two hours away agreed to take May the next day, Wednesday. We had to build a fire under the local auto repairman to get the farm truck fixed in time, but he promised to have it done Wednesday morning for us.

Phone service came back to the town and the private line Tuesday night, but the business phone, which was our bread and butter, still didn't work all through Wednesday. Not too bad, the boss said, since we didn't have the time to ship orders anyway.

Wednesday morning Bessie had milk fever and couldn't get up. May had delivered twins overnight and her abscess fortunately had not broken. Lulu was getting better Wednesday - at least she wasn't crying as much when she tried to pee. She was getting paranoid though when she saw one of us coming as it meant another pill rammed down her throat.

We discovered late Wednesday, after Bessie was up, May was gone and the truck was back, that Lulu had knocked the business line extension in the first stall off the hook. We never use that phone so didn't think of checking it. That explained why we had one line but not two after the town got service back.

Thursday, thankfully, we were back to normal with no more than the usual farm chaos, and we got caught up on the cheese orders and shipping.

At the farm where I am now, when thing get crazy, I remember that things could be worse. A lot worse.
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Author:Johnson, Kathie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Making the transition from commercial farming to homesteading wasn't easy ... but homesteaders do have some advantages.
Next Article:What do homesteaders do for fun?

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