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.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Siobhan a Year Later

This is a follow-up to Siobhan's story from last year.  That story told how Siobhan got Pseudomonas mastitis in her right rear quarter and nearly died.

I was a day away from putting Siobhan down to end her intense suffering when my son and our three grandchildren joined me in the milking parlor.  They prayed over and sang to Siobhan while I stripped her swollen, painful quarter.  They also fed her treats and for the first time since she got sick, she didn't kick in pain.  Shortly after they left, a vet from the University of TN called me--on a Sunday afternoon--and begged me not to put Siobhan down.  He said if I gave her a chance, he believed she could get well--even though Psuedomonas is considered untreatable and incurable.  That vet ended up being a lot like the biblical angel that told Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac--he played his part and disappeared from the story, never to be heard of again!  He never answered my emails or calls, and I was on my own with a cow I hoped and believed God might spare, but not quite sure what I was supposed to do.

Before I learned it was Pseudomonas, a local vet had already given me a shot of Excede and a prescription for Pirsue (assuming it was Staph A again).  So I carried through with the Pirsue in all four quarters for 8 days; gave Siobhan large doses of oil of oregano essential oil in her feed twice a day, along with Vitamin E and probiotics; and massaged and stripped the RR quarter twice a day until the calf could keep her udder milked out.  At that point I quit milking her to avoid spreading anything.  Siobhan and Remy lived in the barnyard while I hauled all the manure and bedding away to a separate compost heap where it would not be spread on the pastures.  

An update from late August recounts some further challenges Siobhan faced, including an annoying fungal infection of her udder, another residual of my grave mistake in using the Tamm Udder Support.  Essential oils, colloidal silver and Lotrimin finally resolved that problem after months of treatment.  However, there was some hopeful news in her further milk tests--especially that throughout her illness, the Staph A she had in Feb. 2014 never reappeared.  That was the best news I had during a horrible year!

In October 2015, Siobhan and Remy got out of the barnyard for the first time since he was a few days old, the end of May.  They had two months out in a pasture until I weaned Remy in early December, and Siobhan came back to the barnyard so I could supervise her anti-self-sucking harness.  Our vet came for a consultation about Siobhan's future, and we made a plan.  The plan changed a few times for various reasons, but here's what we finally did.  Remy was weaned, Siobhan tested negative for Pseudomonas again, and I dried her off.

Once Siobhan was dried off, she was ready for surgery.  I consulted with vets at UT and the University of GA, as well as two other helpful vets with experience in mastitis.  There was a general consensus that, due to scar tissue from the Pseudomonas and probable damage to her lymph system which drains the udder of infection, if Siobhan ever calved and lactated again, she would almost certainly get mastitis.  That much the vets agreed on.  As far as how to prevent that, the vets had various solutions to offer.

1)  A complete mastectomy, a very serious surgery under general anesthesia, with a risk of death, infection, seroma, etc.  This would obviously completely eliminate any chance of her getting mastitis.  It could be followed a couple weeks later by an ovariectomy (spaying her) to keep her from getting pregnant.  That could be done through a flank incision (more risky) or laparoscopically (much less risky, but more expensive).

2)  An ovariectomy (spaying) through a flank incision, at the same time tying off the main artery that supplies the udder.  This would result in atrophy of the udder.  There was a slight chance that collateral circulation might develop, but as long as Siobhan would not be calving and lactating, this should greatly reduce her chance of getting mastitis.

The anxious part of me wanted Siobhan's udder to be gone so she could never have mastitis again.  A friend who had it done for her cow was very supportive and helpful--without making me feel guilty if I decided against it.  The cow mama part of me did not want my cow to suffer the pain and months-long recovery of a total mastectomy, and after the months of stress I endured last year, I wasn't sure *I* could deal with the pain and suffering and potential complications.  Our vet highly recommended against it.  Herb supported whatever I decided, and in the end I had to make the decision for Siobhan; no one else could do it for me.  After spending time in meditation and prayer for wisdom, I felt convinced that the Lord had brought Siobhan this far to spare her--and the ovariectomy at UT kept coming to mind.

On March 21, we took Siobhan up to the University of Tennessee, 2 hours away.  She led off the trailer like the sweetheart she is and got the attention of a crowd of vet tech students, who thought she was so cute!

It was SO hard to leave my girl there, but I knew she was in good hands.   Siobhan had her surgery on March 24, with the assistance of three different vets.  They used a left flank incision.  The ovariectomy (spaying) was as easy as expected, although they had some difficulty reaching the right pudendal artery due to her smaller size, and the surgery took several hours.  As a precaution, they gave Siobhan IV fluids and antibiotics and decided to keep her over the weekend to observe her.

We picked Siobhan up on March 28.  They didn't even bother leading her through the chute, but just led her out the door.  We had a chance to talk with all three vets who worked on her and get their input for her follow-up care.

Here's Siobhan back at home four days post-op, showing off her incision.  The stuff around the edges of the shaved portion is sterile drapes that they glued to her hide to keep them from falling off if she moved.

A close-up of the incision, which would need the stitches removed 10-14 days post-op.  Meanwhile, I was instructed to take Siobhan's temperature every morning for the next 10 days and to closely observe the incision for any redness or drainage.  By God's grace, her recovery was textbook-perfect with nothing to cause me any worry.

On April 8, two weeks after Siobhan's surgery, came the moment I'd been dreaming of for more than a year.  It was a moment I had hoped for, even while I dreaded that it might only come figuratively for Siobhan's spirit when her body found relief from suffering.
(Even a year later, it makes me cry to write that!)

The moment Siobhan didn't know to hope for, but that she sure knew how to enjoy to the fullest . . .

Psalm 29
(verses 2, 4 & 6)

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox. . . .

Every time I see these photos of Siobhan leaping like a calf, I smile all over again.  Her joy was and still is infectious!

About two weeks after Siobhan's surgery, our vet took out her stitches and pronounced that she looked excellent.  It was time to let her really go free, so that Ebby and her calf Buddy could enjoy the Home Pasture.

Despite Siobhan's stellar behavior on the lead rope at UT, I thought it would be wise to tie her behind the Doodad while I drove it slowly and have Herb walk nearby, in case she got excited and pulled too hard for one of us to lead her.  It's a good thing I know my girl so well!  I took this photo from the driver's seat, and Siobhan was definitely leading!

Siobhan was happily reunited with Royal, and after determining that he was Head Bull and she was Head Cow, they set off to enjoy the large Back Pasture together.

That evening I was filled with joy at the sight of Siobhan grazing beside Royal, being a cow again . . . for the first day of the rest of her life.  The last verse of Psalm 29 expresses my feelings perfectly: "The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace."  It was a long and difficult year for both Siobhan and me, but at the end of it, we both have peace, and I thank the Lord from both of us!


  1. Oh my - where's the Kleenex! Nothing makes me smile more than a cavorting cow and God bless you for giving her the chance to do that for many, many more years!

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie! (Somehow I didn't get a notification that you posted.) I really appreciate your support!

  2. Finally got a chance to read this. LOVE God's imagery of a calf paired with those photos! ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•

    1. Thank you! She really was skipping like a calf--her joy was contagious!

  3. So glad to see your girl happy and free :-)

  4. Love, love the photos of Siobhan running! ~Barbara

    1. Thank you, Barbara! They make me smile every time I see them! :)


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