As well as rearing our children and looking after our dogs, I also work part-time milking cows. I've been milking cows now for 28 years. When asked why I milk cows the answer simply is, "For some strange reason I enjoy it". I could get all romantic now and tell about as a young child I used to stay on a friends farm and how I would stand at the end of the parlour from the age of 5 waiting for the farmer to tell me how many pulls on a handle I had to do to release cake, as each cow came in the parlour or the summer I spent starring at the summer sky with a cow I called "99" because that was her brand mark, I did not realise at that time she was a barren cow and it was her last summer lying in the grass with the sun on her back, but I know the enjoyment she showed when my little hands would caress and smooth her, her last summer was a good summer. My Mum would call for me and say, "What are you doing up there in the field with that old cow?" No, milking cows ain't for the romantic.
With 28 years of milking there is a lot to tell. The only problems is recalling the tales. Often a tale is recalled because something of a similar nature happening joults the old grey matter. So tales are told as they are recalled. Today though is a tale from this summer, so still freshly ingrained in to the grey matter. Around four months ago I was milking the weekend and on the Sunday morning I strolled out across the field around 5.30am to bring the cows in to be milked. I noticed one of the cows stood a bit peculiar with her head slung low and not moving on with the rest of the cows. I got up next to her and putting my hand on her hindquarters told her to, "Get on, girl" Rather than move she just kept sharply turning back on me and first impressions I thought she was trying to be a bit bullish with me, but with a bit of waving of arms and shooing she moved off, although at a rapid rate down towards the gate, but she missed the gate way and ended up head first in the hedge. I got down beside her and tried to get her back out of the hedge and on doing so, on trying to move her again, she would again keep turning towards me as if trying to knock me over. Then she ran into the hedge again and thus proceeded to bulldoze down through the hedge. By this time I was starting to consider that she could not see or she was in the throws of dying. I have seen cows behave similar to this just before dropping down dead.
I left her, because at that moment there was nothing I could do without seriously risking my own health with her and proceeded in getting the rest of the cows in. Once the rest of the cows were in the yard I ran to the house to get the farmer, I work for to go and take a look at her. When I knocked on the door, Steve was on his way out, which surprised me. He's wife told me later, that he was already up when I knocked, because they heard a gate go in the yard that I don't normally use, which had alerted them that something was up.
I told Steve about the cow and remarked, "The way she is behaving, I think she might be blind." I got on milking the cows and waited on news of the cow. Steve returned about twenty minutes later to tell me he had found her up on her back in the corner of the field and had got her on her side and he was of the mind that she could be dying. He rang the vet though and the vet turned up. Confirmed she was blind and then it was why had a cow that came in the parlour the night before totally fit and well, could be totally blind by the morning without a mark on her. The vet thought it could possibly be two things, a vitamin B1 deficiency or meningitis. Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause blindness and meningitis can cause inflammation behind the eye leading to temporary blindness. He treated the cow for both and took bloods to try and discover what the cause was. I milked in the evening and the cow was then comfortable out in the field up grazing and when I milked a couple days later in the morning the cow merrily skipped into the parlour, apparently able to see okay.. No other cows have gone blind and in 28 years milking that was a first for me, going out in the field to find a cow totally blind from being okay the day before and was also a first for the farmer I work for. As for the cow, she is now heavy in calve due to be dried off soon. A week later the blood results came back with nothing, inconclusive and just shows how much we think we know, working with animals you realise, there will always be more that we don't know.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself, too.”
― Samuel Butler
Me (Jane) with Puddin' and Teagol, waiting patiently to flush a patch of kale, December 2019
Hello, I am Jane!