Here is Gina. Gina is sick. I'm going to try to make her better!
Gina should be hard at work making milk right now, but instead, something's got her down. It seems to be a urinary tract or kidney infection. Every minute or so, she pees a little bit. The farm noticed this about a month ago, and she still seemed normal and healthy. She was producing almost 8 gallons of milk a day.
While this type of infection is pretty unusual, it should have been easy to fix. She got a double dose of Excede (cetiofur), a very handy antibiotic. You give them a shot right in the lump where their ear connects to the body (I know! So weird!) and it slowly releases antibiotics for about a week. Cetiofur is really a win-win, because it is also not used in human medicine (which means we are not contributing to antibiotic resistance concerns). Four weeks later, no signs of improvement. She had also started losing weight and her milk production had dropped off to only two gallons a day. Clearly, she was not feeling well.
The farm called to tell me it hadn't worked, and her milk was drying up. The implication was that we had reached the time where the antibiotic had left her system (13 days for Excede) and we could legally send her to slaughter now, before things got worse. But....Gina is a special cow. And she is pregnant. She has a very famous mother and brother. Her brother even has his own web page.
She is pregnant, but not due until June 1 or so. A normal rest period for a cow, where they quit making milk for us and have a little vacation, is about 60 days leading up to birth. By letting her quit making milk now I am losing a lot of money giving her 6 months off instead. I will also have to watch her closely because with so much vacation she might get overweight, which comes with some serious health problems when June rolls around. Right now, she is underweight so I'm not too worried about it.
I have purchased an older, less convenient antibiotic at my vet's suggestion. Polyflex is ampicillin, which as you guys might know is pretty important for human medicine. That and the fact that I literally have to give her a shot every single day makes it much less desirable than the first one we tried. We really do try to phase out antibiotics important for human medicine whenever possible, but I am very grateful that we have another option to try in this case. Over the past 20 years, many options have been taken away from us over antibiotic resistance and residue concerns. Usually it is a result of people mis-using the product, which really stings when those people who are using it properly and judicially now don't (legally) have that option.
The vet is having me give her an extended treatment, longer than the label recommends. This means it will probably be weeks before she could legally be slaughtered, so I am casting a pretty big bet. The antibiotics themselves cost over $100. If she dies here on my farm I would be on the hook for a few hundred dollars to get her body removed. I would also be out the $500 or so that she would be worth as beef. I am also feeding her, which isn't free. Most importantly, I really don't want to have her suffer :(
Someday I want to write a little more for you about antibiotics used in dairy cattle, if you guys are interested. I know it's in the news every few weeks or so.
So friends, wish me luck! Poor Gina is not going to like me much after I give her a shot every single day for the next week, so I really hope this one works!
Edit: Sorry, didn't realize the pictures were messed up. Kinja, stahp!!