My First Sick Cow

D. E. Larsen, DVM

My early memories from childhood are still vivid in my mind and go back to my third year, and maybe earlier. My older brother, who never seems to recall much of those days, will often disagree with my memory once I mention something. That said, this is my memory and my blog.

I stood at the window and watched the chicken coop up the hill from the house. Dad and the Uncles were in the coop, treating our cow. She was sick this morning. Of course, at four years of age, I knew nothing of the particulars. 

Dad picked up the earpiece on the wooden wall phone and cranked the hand crank several times. Then he told the woman on the phone who he was calling. I was never allowed to use this phone. You had to know our ring before you could answer the phone. Otherwise, I would be just like Mary down the road, listening to other people’s conversations.

“The cow was staggering this morning,” Dad had said into the wooden phone that hung on the wall. “I was able to run her into the chicken coop. She went down, and I can’t get her up. It looks like Milk Fever to me.”

We lived on a small acreage on Catching Creek at the time. It was not really a farm, but this cow was our family milk cow. There was a big concern about the cow in the house that morning. This was our sole source of milk.

It was not long after the phone call that Grandpa and Uncle Dutch arrived at the house. Mom poured them coffee as they waited for Uncle Duke and Rodney. Rodney was next to come.

“Duke is never on time,” Albert said.

They were waiting on Duke because he was the “cow doctor” for the group. Duke had been to college and was respected for his expertise. There was a lot of chatter at the table, about the cow, and about Duke.

When he arrived, everyone was up and out of the house. They all headed for the chicken coop.

I have no real recollection as to how long they were in the chicken coop. Mom was busy in the kitchen, dishing up some pie to go with the coffee. The men would be back when their work was done.

Finally, the first to exit the chicken coop was the cow. She must be well. Everyone in the house was happy. Then in a few minutes, the men filed out the door.

Mom served the pie with thick cream and coffee. All the men relaxed and talked about the treatment and the coming chores or the day. Rodney kidded my brothers and me. It was a happy event.

The mood around the table was almost jovial. It was more than the fact that the cow was well. It was the fact that it had been so easy and so fast. 

There was no way for me to know at the time, and I can only speculate today, but this could have been the first time that this group of men had treated a cow with milk fever with an injection of IV Calcium. 

Before the mid to late 1940s, milk fever was treated by inflating the udder with air to bring milk production for an immediate and temporary halt. Udder inflation was the first successful treatment for milk fever. It was used initially without a clear understanding as to why it worked.

In the mid-1930s, low blood calcium was found to be the cause. Routine treatment, on the farm, with IV calcium, was slow to replace udder inflation. But by the late 1940s, IV calcium had become the standard treatment.  

In the late 1940s, veterinarians were in short supply in Western Oregon, especially in Coos County. Duke’s skills were heavily relied upon in those years before Myrtle Point had a veterinarian.

This event provided me with an early awareness that we treated sick cows. And, perhaps, most importantly, the elation when everything was successful.

Photo by carboxaldehyde from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

2 thoughts on “My First Sick Cow

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