It’s been a month since I made the painful decision. I’m still sad about it but I tried my best, and in the end I knew there was no other choice.
Last year my vet told me that my Jersey had a contagious, antibiotic-resistant mastitis called Staph A (Staph Aureous) and I would probably need to put her down. I just couldn’t believe it! It sounded so much like a death sentence and so unfair! She was a very sleek, healthy looking Jersey – I couldn’t just put her down!
So I began researching Staph A, trying to find ways to cure it and to know more of what I was up against. And I learned that the reason why this bacteria is antibiotic resistant, regardless if the antibiotics used are super strong, is because Staph walls itself off in impenetrable pockets inside the udder tissue.
I have no idea how my Jersey got Staph A – perhaps it came with her. When I bought her 4 years ago she was a nurse cow and had 3 calves nursing off her. Her teats had several bad/deep cuts on them (from the calves’ teeth) but they healed over completely after I took care of them. So perhaps that is how the Staph entered her system. (Don’t know for sure – I’m just making an educated guess here.) And ever since then she had frequent flare-ups of mastitis, several times a year, and it progressively worsened till at the end I was dealing with chronic mastitis which made her milk unfit to drink.
However it got in her system it was there now – and I had to deal with it. I tried and tried to fix it – or at least to keep the infection in check. I’m not really big on using antibiotics but I used several which the vet recommended to treat the mastitis. They worked for a little and then it would flare-up again. I also tried some natural/herbal remedies recommended in my Cow/Dairy health books. But nothing worked.
To know exactly what was going on and to treat it better I decided to have her milk tested at a lab so I sent in samples to Lancaster DHIA (http://www.lancasterdhia.com/culture%20lab.html) to test for bacterial/viral mastitis, Somatic Cell Counts and Pregnancy (they’ve figured out another way to test for it besides ultrasounds and drawing blood!) But I was so upset when her results came back! One quarter had to be killed it was so beyond repair (with SCC over 3 million!!!) Two other quarters contained high volumes of Staph greater than 90% along with Yeasts and another bacteria called Staphylococcus SP.
Before testing her I had toyed with the idea of selling her to another homesteader/small dairy. But that was out of the question now. Because her type of mastitis is contagious to other cows she couldn’t be sold. Her milk was undrinkable; she had Ketosis again; and even though I put a spiked ring in her nose she was drinking her own milk like she craved it. And the biggest bummer was that she didn’t breed this year. I was like 90% sure she was bred – she didn’t show a heat sign for 5 months! – which made the vet suspect she had gone septic from spreading the Staph through her system.
I tried one last time – giving her one last huge effort on my part. But after talking to several different vets and asking several farmers (who I highly respect) their opinion, all said I’d be better off with a new cow. I had thought about sending her to auction, but at auction she would’ve gone for beef anyway because of her issues. So I had a local butcher stop by one day.
I cried. I cried so hard I though my heart would break. I had not wanted to do this, but sometimes life just isn’t easy. One can break under it, or can bend with it.
Afterwards I found an article “A Practical Look at Contagious Mastitis” which helped me come to grips with my decision. It’s very well written, easy to read, and explains things clearly: http://nmconline.org/contmast.htm And a good friend of mine told me that sometimes giving death to an animal is a gift – and sometimes it is the best thing we could give them. At least she met her end peacefully, without being frightened or traumatized or abused before the end. I gave her that much.
I learned alot with that Jersey. And I don’t regret any of it. But I will say that it took that painful decision of parting to get something better. Because my new cow Fancy is exactly what I’ve been wanting for years!