Winter Dysentery at Our Farm

My cows have come down with a rather horrid virus called Winter Dysentery.  It runs like this:

Day 1: Cow goes off feed, but otherwise seems normal.

Day 2: Cow stops eating and drinking and emits large quantities of extremely watery diarrhea.  Simultaneously, milk production drops to nil.

Day 3: More of the same.

Day 4: There’s nothing left in her system to poop, and cow is noticeably thinner.

Day 5: More of same.  (We’re on Day 5.)

Our calves actually got it first, but I thought it was something they’d eaten.  They recovered at between a week and ten days, depending on the calf.  Pepper got it first and seemed to be hit the hardest.  It’s hard to tell what’s going on with the animals we’re not milking, because you don’t really get a total picture of what’s going on.  They don’t eat grain, so we didn’t see them go off feed.  They don’t get milked, so we didn’t see production drop.  All we saw was diarrhea and some sad, droopy calves.

But Daisy was noticeably less interested in her feed on Sunday, and by Monday, it was apparent that she had what the calves had.  By Monday night, Annabelle was sick, too, but I was able to get Maybelle started on some probiotics, in the hopes that we could stand up to this intestinal bug.  I’ve been double-dosing her, but she’s been unable to finish her feed for the past three milkings, and now she’s got it, too.  Her milk is down, but not as drastically as Daisy’s, and her manure is loose, but not as watery as Daisy’s.  She’s still able to eat some, so I’m hoping against all hope that this will be minimal for her, at least.  I don’t know if we’ll be able to get Daisy’s milk back when this is all over, and I’d hate to lose both of them to this.

Anyway, either the probiotics are really helping her, or she has more natural resistance.  I base that assumption on the calves, who’ve already been through it.  Pepper is Daisy’s girl, and she got it first, had it the longest, and seemed to suffer the most for it.  Sunshine is Maybelle’s girl, and she got it last and also seemed to recover more quickly.  I like to imagine some sort of genetic relationship there.  It makes me feel better.

How’d we get it?  It’s a virus, transmitted through the mucus and feces of infected animals, and I suspect the vet unwittingly brought it to us.  When I called him with our symptoms, already suspecting the diagnosis thanks to google, he confirmed that it’s been going around.  And he had been here just prior to our outbreak to breed one of my animals.  I suspect he tracked it in on his boots, without even thinking.  But we just as easily could have picked it up at the feed mill the same way.  All sorts of farmers tromping around in dirty boots there, including us.

We are doing all we can for our animals, and there is nothing left but to hope and pray.  I’m sure God has some good reason for all this.  Perhaps he thought we needed a break, with the baby coming and all, and made arrangements to minimize our commitments.  That’s just the sort of thing He’d think of.

But I’m going to be really angry if I have to go buy milk.


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About Jennie Cooper

I'm the mother of eight children, the wife of a retired soldier, and a newly minted farmer. I spend my days fairly productively, home educating our children, raising large quantities of food for several families, and volunteering in our community. I read entire novels a page at a time in the comfort of my bathroom. I tell people I'm Catholic just because they find it so shocking. I think there's nothing so exciting as a thunderstorm coming in. It doesn't bother me at all that my dog barks outside my bedroom window all night. And I rather enjoy being 40. I didn't think I would, but 40 is pretty good.

5 thoughts on “Winter Dysentery at Our Farm

  1. Beckie R.

    I’m sorry 🙁 I hope everyone gets better soon. And I hope milk production isn’t completely wiped out. If it is, how long until you have producers again?

  2. Kirsten

    Oh no Jennie!!!! It is so stressful dealing with down cows!! . Especially when it’s your whole herd. I am sorry you all are going through this. I will be praying!!!! Especially for Pepper. ;0) How is she now?? How are you doing? Make sure you are resting?


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