Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Storm Clouds and Rainbows: An Update About Holding On

This is an update on my June 15 post, The Cow, the Calf, the Crisis, the Kids and the Creator.

June and July have difficult months for me, often resembling a sunset through storm clouds.  Shortly after I wrote the June 15 post, I got the results of the milk culture back.  There was no growth reported in any of Siobhan's quarters, but she had a horrendous SCC (somatic cell count) of over 4 million in the Right Rear (Pseudomonas) quarter.  I didn't know whether to feel happy over the "no growth" or worried about the SCC; I was just confused!  I knew that an SCC could remain elevated even after the mastitis was gone, but surely not that much.  Dr. A had been out sick, so none of my questions got answered; in fact, I never have gotten to talk with him again.  I've finally concluded that he was rather like the angel God sent to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac--he saved Siobhan and disappeared offstage.

Wondering if I had tested too soon after the antibiotics, I decided to send off a test to AntelBio, a lab that tests for the DNA of mastitis-causing organisms.  That means that even if an antibiotic treatment was preventing growth in a culture, any organism present would still show up through its DNA.  Those results confused me even more!  They showed that both Right quarters had no detectable organisms, but one or both of the left ones (I had combined them in the last tube I had) had 1+ Prototheca spp., contagious algae carried in water.  On top of that, it turns out that AntelBio doesn't even test for Pseudomonas, so the negative result wasn't reassuring at all.

That meant I needed to send off one more test to TQML since they test for both Pseudomonas and Prototheca.  This time the test came back showing NO Prototheca, but with 60 CFU/ml of Pseudomonas and the SCC down to 2.7 million.  (For comparison purposes, when Siobhan originally had Staph A in February 2014, the count was 659,000 CFU/ml.  When I got a report of 60 CFU/ml of an environmental bacteria at dry-off, Susan told me that small amount was probably a contaminated sample.)  So I was left with lots of questions . . . Was this a contaminated sample? . . . Had the PA never gone? . . . Or was it back?  Susan did tell me that with Pseudomonas, it's not unusual to have a negative test followed by a positive one.

Meanwhile, another problem had appeared.  About the 12th of June I noticed that Siobhan seemed to be in pain when I was milking or Remy was nursing, although her quarters seemed normal in size and the milk was flowing well and without clumps.  In fact, for the first time in her life she was regularly lifting a foot in protest, and I resorted to using hobbles on her.  As I investigated what could be causing her pain, I discovered long sores high up in the "cleavage" where her front quarters joined her body.  The sores were hidden in her thick coat and only became obvious when I tried to shave the area.  Her reaction made it clear that this was VERY painful.

I prepared hot water with eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils and used it to apply hot, moist compresses to the area.  Then, a bit at a time over a period of days, I shaved and pulled away the nasty clumps of dried exudate and hair.  What was left was raw, red, oozing sores.  I realized that they were right in the area where the thick edge of the Tamm udder net had touched Siobhan, and I was sick at heart to realize that I had caused this, too.  I tried a variety of things to help soothe the area until my friend Kirby Allen suggested that it sounded like a fungal infection.

So I switched to using Colloidal Silver ointment, which seemed to ease the pain as soon as I smeared it on, followed by Lotrimin Anti-fungal spray.  Every morning I dragged Siobhan into the stanchion to eat her grain while I did her soaks and treatment.

By that time it was the end of June.  I was down to once a day milking, and Remy was pretty much handling everything on his own.  My sisters were due to arrive July 1 to celebrate my 60th birthday, so I milked Siobhan for the last time on June 28.  After agonizing over what to do and when and how, I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't know enough to do anything at that time.  Siobhan had been in the barnyard with her Pseudomonas, and keeping her there longer wasn't going to change that.

Except for the sores, Siobhan was looking healthier and actually getting a shine on her coat.  So I decided to just hold on and let her raise Remy as long as possible.  There was no rush to make a decision, and I would try to enjoy the month of July with my family, ignore the undercurrent of sorrow that lurked just below the surface, and cross the next bridge when I came to it.

By the end of July, the right-hand sore was mostly healed, with new hair growing back.  I stopped the soaks on that side, but continued to monitor it and apply Lotrimin every few days.

The left-hand sore was much better, with most of the rawness gone and no further clumps of exudate appearing.  I was thankful for small blessings like Siobhan not being in pain any more.
I continued daily treatment on the left-hand sore, and now at the end of August, most of the hair has grown back.  I continue the daily treatments, however, unwilling to take the chance of a relapse.

The final piece of news is that this past Monday, Aug. 24, I sent off milk samples to TQML for a mastitis re-test.  I got the results Thursday, and to my complete surprise, there was no growth after 72 hours.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  The SCC results are confusing (to both Susan and me), and I think I might have mixed up the two right-hand tubes.  At any rate, I'll test again in a month.

This entire saga has been like a roller coaster ride.  While I'm trying not to hope too much, I'm very thankful for this unexpected blessing, and I'll continue to leave Siobhan's future in God's hands.  Meanwhile, Remy is a funny, lively little guy and Siobhan is her usual sweet self.

What a relief that I don't have to drag her into the stanchion any more!  She comes over to the gate, waits until I open it, and walks right in.  I don't even have to shut the neck catch.  She eats her grain, I do her treatment, I give her some apple treats, and when I open the gate she backs out.  It's obvious that she wants to be out of the barnyard, and every three weeks she moos for Royal, but I think we can both hold on a little while longer.

A special "Thank you" to all of my family and friends who have prayed so faithfully for Siobhan!  Some of you like Herb, Kara and Barbara have been right beside me when it was hard to make myself go out to the barnyard.  Others of you I only know through the internet, but your caring messages have encouraged me more than you can know.  So thank you!  And please keep praying!


  1. Looks like you and your cow have made it through the storm ok. Glad to hear she will be alright now and you can relax a little. You have so much invested with her I can see why the concern. I hope its smother sailing from here.

  2. Wow. You've certainly had a lot happening. I'm so sad you had to go through all that! Praying it works out for the best x

    1. Thank you so much! This is the hard part of farm life, but it definitely happens, as you know from some of what you've gone through. But the blessings are definitely there, aren't they?


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