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Down On the Farm: Dorothy and Sophia


 This is Dorothy. I bought her about 13 months ago at an auction. Her back story: she was the ‘family cow’ (basically a term for a non-commercial dairy cow who is used for milk production on a home –scale), her owner died and his kids didn’t want her. She looked so sad and confused at the auction. She was in a stall all by herself in a back corner. I was drawn to her immediately. I spent most of the day in the stall talking to her and petting her neck. The ‘real’ farmers probably thought I was nuts. We bought her bred, she delivered freshened had  Sophia about two weeks later.
Sophia Day 2 – See how Dorothy is always trying to lick the camera?
I love my cow. When we bought her her name was Friendly, and she really is. She loves people. When someone new walks in the pasture she’s the first to run (talk about scary, 900+ pounds at a full run AT you) up and slobber  sniff.  Up until yesterday I have never lived with my cow. She has been at my boyfriends mothers since we got her over a year ago.
Dorothy and Sophia, left, Mable and S’mores, right. Couldn’t this be a card for a Mother’s Day Buffet?

Dorothy is my miracle girl. (Warning! Sad story with a happy ending)
The Cow Who Lived – New Years Day
Last year, on December 17, 2010 Dorothy almost died. She got out of her stall and got her head stuck under a board trying to get to another animals food. My boyfriends mother (BFM) found her laying on her side with her head stuck. She removed to board and tried to get her to stand up. They tried to temp her with food and tried rocking her back and forth but she couldn’t stand.
Mike (my boyfriend) called me at work and told me what happened. At that point I didn’t realize how serious it really was. I left work and drove over to meet the vet. He tried to rock her and then used a cattle-prod to test her reflexes. I felt horrible, like I was being shocked. She didn’t stand but she did move her legs. He eventually told us that she must have hit her back on the wall and injured her spine. He didn’t know if the damage was permanent and he couldn’t  tell us if she would ever be ok. He gave us steroids and told us to come by the office for hiplifts to try and get her standing.
One of the worst parts of this ordeal was the weather. It’s December. In Central New York. Cold, Cold, Cold. Of course she somehow crawled out of the barn and was laying in mud (her body heat melted the frozen ground). I has begun compulsively reading anything I could about cow health and found out the bottom of a cows thermal neutral zone is 20 deg F. (That means an acclimated cow isn’t affected by the cold until it’s 20deg). My definition of cold changed. I checked the weather constantly. We made her an igloo. We piled hay bales around her for windbreaks and used a tarp to keep the snow off her. She hated it. The buckets and buckets of warm oat and sweet-feed mash I made helped a little. 
The second vet that came out told us that as long as she was trying (eating) we could keep her alive but the longer she was down the less chance there was she would recover. Cows are large animals and their muscles can atrophy very quickly. Generally with farmers, if they don’t get up that day they turn into hamburger. Before you hate on them, realize that it’s HARD to be a dairy farmer, they aren’t making money because they can’t charge what their product is worth. The ones I know try their best for their animals, but if it comes to feeding their kids or meds for an animal that might not recover the kids win. Off the soapbox now…
This all happened right around Christmas, I spent a lot of time crying and screaming. We had some moments hitting rock bottom. It was so cold the tractor wouldn’t start and we couldn’t get her to stand. She didn’t seem to be making progress and it seemed like everyone else was giving up on her.  I was literally crying all the time, in the car on my way to work, from work to BFMs house, on the way back to my house. Good thing I didn’t get pulled over right?
Mike and the Girls, she’s skinny and filthy but standing
Then the miracles started. We had a warm snap for a week or so before New Years. And she started moving. No one saw her so we don’t know if she was walking of crawling. I remember walking back to the barn to get aspirin (ever try to shoot a pill the size of your thumb down an angry cows throat?) and I walked back and she was 10 feet away from where she had been.
Fast forward 15 Days. New Years Eve. Walked out of the llama barn after delivering 3 goats (I am multi-talented) and saw a cow-butt sticking up in the air. I swear my world stopped. As soon as she saw us she lay back down. The next day we got the call that she was up AND WALKING. By the time we got there she was laying down (in the barn at least) but we got our miracle.  She had lost a lot of weight and was very filthy. She had mastitis in one quarter (more farm lingo, bacterial infection) that we treated with antibiotics. My boyfriend and I had actually decided to ‘pull the plug’ if she wasn’t up by Monday, THE NEXT DAY. I honestly don’t know how if we would have gone through with it.One of those things I don’t like to think about.
Grazing, she gained back all the weight she lost and more
Fast forward again. October 6, 2011. My girl is home with her baby happily grazing and laying in the sun. It’s been such a long bumpy road. I feel like we’ve finally come full circle with her. She has an admirer, Fred is completely enamored. They keen touching noses and he stares at her like a little boy with his first crush.
Love is in the air
linked up to Farm Girl Friday


  1. I loved this story. I was totally enthralled. I have always wanted a cow but they don’t allow them in my neighborhood. I love your Christmas card post, your dog is adorable with his antlers. Our dog, Tasha, will wear antlers like that too.
    I will look forward reading more of your posts.

  2. This is an amazing story! I’m glad I found your blog! I love that first picture of her! Do you sell copies? Email me and let me know

  3. I love love love this story! I have a Jersey named Matilda, so I understand the family cow thing really well! 🙂 I had a close call with Matilda once, she was stuck by a fence–thank God she survived! Oh, I am so glad you shared this post and pictures. Made me smile!

  4. Oh my goodness…I am so jealous. I have wanted a cow forever and a BABAY cow…oh my…

    So glad the story ended up well…how sad it would have been…

    …and also appreciate the shout out to dairy farmers…we live in dairy farm country and I know they get a bad rap sometimes, but also know exactly how hard they work. If we all just had our own backyard milk cows, this world might be a better place, don’t you think?

  5. I love how you write about your animals with such obvious love. I wish all animals were able to experience that! 🙂
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