The Worst Job on a Farm

Some realities on the farm never get any easier.

Death is one of those things. Loosing an animal is always hard. Making the decision to put one down – and having to do it – can be even worse.

Knowing a cow is suffering and isn’t likely to get any better, I often feel the same rush of emotion and stinging in my eyes I felt as a little girl when it was time for my beloved Daisy cow to go.
Daisy and I back in the day.

Below is a partial re-post from a story I shared several years back. While the ending doesn’t always go this way, the consideration and care that goes into a decision like this is always the same.

Life and death.

It’s reality, right? Especially on a farm.

Sometimes that reality is a lot harder to deal with than I would like.

Here on the farm we are lucky to have many healthy and happy calves born every year.

It’s not the norm, but sometimes cows lose their pregnancy early, just as a human mother may have a miscarriage. Still births also happen on occasion, no matter how carefully we monitor the mother cows.

It’s sad to witness a cow futility trying to coax her baby to stand when there just isn’t life or breath in the little body.

I do think some of these situations are nature’s way of dealing with a calf that wasn’t healthy. Maybe there were developmental problems, and the calf couldn’t have survived or had a normal life.

Other times, a calf is born very much alive, but they simply are not healthy.

A little heifer born this winter started out okay, but she was wobbly on her feet. This is normal for a few days, but instead of getting better, she got worse.

Even at a few days old it became evident that her joints and limbs were abnormal.

We had the vet look at her, and we followed several treatments to try and keep her comfortable while bringing healing to her troubled joints.

In the human world, this baby would be the type you find in the neonatal ICU. There would probably be research done on her specific condition, and specialists would know how to help her.

Maybe she would ultimately be in a wheelchair, but she could still have a chance at life.

Unfortunately, they don’t make wheelchairs for cows. People and animals are different, and when an animal is having serious difficulty walking, the prognosis is bleak.

The decision to put an animal down feels like a catch 22. You hate to give up on her, but it’s not fair or right to let an animal struggle when you know there is little chance of recovery.

After we’d done what we could with treatments and TLC, it was time to say goodbye.

Tonight there will be one less calf to feed.

Even in the midst of 100+, we absolutely notice that empty place. As I walk her row tonight, I’ll give thanks for the healthy and vigorous calves, and I’ll pay somber respect to the one who isn’t there.

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
This entry was posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Worst Job on a Farm

  1. Sorry for your loss 😦

  2. Oh, this is so sad. I too would have a hard time saying goodbye, and making that choice. But I do think it’s the right one. Sorry for your loss.

  3. Pingback: Undercover: What’s What? | Cow Spots and Tales

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