Wednesday, March 6:
Yesterday Baby Belle wouldn’t eat. An eager gobbler of oats in the normal way of things, she had to be driven into the dairy at morning milking, where she refused her grain, gave only about half the normal amount of milk, and bolted as soon as the head gate was opened. She wasn’t interested in the new sweet bales we dropped into the manger, but stood around with the slack-jawed, dull-eyed stare of a toddler with a temperature of a hundred and three.
All day long.
She didn’t have a temperature. We know because we took it at evening milking, while she shimmied around, annoying S-4, who was milking. Outside in the early spring sunshine her eyes were somewhat squinted, but not weepy or mattering; the cut on her ribs is closed and dry, but not hot, and seems to be healing nicely. Her stomach was rumbling and turning with the usual upheavals of a ruminant, but she wasn’t passing any manure, although we saw her hump her back and strain. We called the vet, who didn’t sound worried but said she might have a displaced abomasum. For us novices: that means one of her stomachs is in the wrong place, and it happens sometimes, especially to Jerseys. Sometimes it’s a pretty big deal, and can even require surgery to put it right.
Turns out that due to too much back-and-forthing on Monday, and even more due to the fact that Mom and Dad had forsaken their responsibilities for a date in the city, no one had put hay in the cows’ manger that night. At three Monday afternoon when the stalls were cleaned the manger had held only a half-bale or so from that morning; the next morning the manger was completely empty. Baby, it would seem, after a good feed of grain at her evening milking, had had no roughage to fill her rumen, and sometimes this is enough to let the abomasum float up out of its place. Or it may only be enough to give the cow a solid day of belly ache.
This morning Baby ate all her grain and then ran out to the manger and got her head down, making up for lost time, so we guess she just had a belly ache. Tonight her milk production was almost up to normal.
Chalk up one more to experience.