Always learning. Remember Poppy, the cow with the recurring milk fever? She received, if memory serves, eleven five hundred mil bottles of calcium gluconate before we got savvy to the fact that milking was taking the calcium out of her system as fast as we were putting it in. We stopped milking for a day or so, and all was well. For the time being.
Not surprisingly, after all those needles in the jugular furrow, she developed a whopping abscess on the left side of her neck. We’ve seen lots of abscesses over the years, but this was one for the diary, being about the size of half a large grapefruit, and although we don’t get worried about abscesses normally — they always seem to reduce on their own, in their own good time — the size and location of this one meant we were definitely keeping an eye on it; in fact, we could hardly help it.
Meanwhile the heifer calf Sylvie (not Poppy’s calf), about eight weeks old and lively as you could hope to see, showed up with an enlarged umbilical site. It was about time to wean her to the bucket anyway (she’d been on Mama up to that point), and when we loaded her to move her down to the lower farm we found it was an abscess, too, in fact, it ruptured as a result of the activity and made a mess in the back of the truck. Videos online, and the sterling advice of our local vet, gave us the confidence to lance the thing, so the next day we tied her down and had at it. Only, we were wasting our time; the abscess was draining just fine on its own, and we could have saved the poor calf two good cuts with a razor by just leaving it alone.
Back to Poppy. Cut and drain, or leave the thing be? While we were still debating, it bagan draining on its own (they develop a soft spot, sometimes more than one, which becomes a drainage sinus). It took maybe three weeks to reduce more or less completely, but it did so, without help (dubious at best) from our primitive surgery. Meanwhile, Sylvie’s umbilical abscess healed without further interference.
Lesson: if it’s draining on its own, it probably won’t help to cut it; and chances are good it will drain on its own.