Now, the most dreadful part of getting to know my girls again was the reality that I was a commercial dairy farmer and I had to make THOSE commercial dairy farmer decisions.
Prior to my what the hell have I done moment, the fate of a cow would be conducted over the phone with whomever was leasing the herd. I would have the LIC printouts which showed each cow’s performance, and profitability, and the person ‘on the ground’ at the other end of the telephone would give their opinion as to temperament, soundness and udder condition. I would gather this information, match it with each cow’s history and make THOSE decisions. It wasn’t too hard – I sat at my office desk, crunched the numbers and did what needed to be done to maintain the size of the herd at a manageable level. But none of this was executed with any beautiful, brown, googly eyes gazing at me. They were figures on a page … not soft, furry ears … or a gentle nudge in the back … or an inquisitive tongue surreptitiously searching my Parka pockets.
A few of the cows made their own decisions and, for one reason or another, were sent to Heaven. One cow developed chronic foot problems, another was a poor performer and constantly kicked the cups off. These decisions were made from a distance and, with the added help of someone else’s opinion, it wasn’t too tough to do. But, now I was on my own with those big, brown eyes looking at me.
Once again, some of them sealed their own fate. Belle went down with a breech birth and despite the vet’s best administrations, and my best care, she obviously wasn’t going to get up. The vet suggested we used cow lifters but I had seen these in action before and I knew the prognosis probably wouldn’t be any better than what we already had. Belle was one of my older cows and she had been a great milker all her life. She had never put a foot wrong and she didn’t deserve to be put through that so I asked the vet to put her to sleep. I felt we had done our best and, for her, it was time to go. Then there were a couple of cows who were not in calf and, after the vet confirmed ovarian cysts, their fate was settled as well.
My problem now is that I have a few wonderful heifers coming along and some of the girls are going to have to go. Who do I choose? How do I choose? Love and affection just can’t come into it. I have to ignore the long eyelashes and crunch the numbers. Herd testing has been completed and pregnancy testing is next week.
I really hope Honey is in calf and has a low Sematic Cell Count.