On Friday I posted the following story on Facebook about our cow Nermal.
When Saturday morning came around and I had to make the tough decision to put Nermal down, I couldn’t do it. I decided to give her more time, at least until Monday morning. I thought to myself that maybe she was just really tired and needed a good rest before she got back up again, maybe the cancer isn’t as bad as it seems.
On Saturday morning Nermal still wouldn’t get up, she was still eating and drinking but didn’t seem to have the strength to hoist herself up. Saturday night, she got up and walked around the pen we have her in. I smiled. On Sunday morning she had finished all the TMR and hay we had given her and once again she was up and walking around her pen.
I want nothing more than to have Nermal live long enough to deliver her heifer calf in July so that I at least have a little of her still in our herd of cows. But I am not so selfish to keep her around for the next few months if she is pain.
And that’s the point of this post. How do we know if a cow is in pain? Sometimes it’s obvious, a cow with a broken leg is in pain, it doesn’t take a scientist to figure that out. But what about a cow with cancer like Nermal, how do you know?
Did you know that right now there isn’t a single drug on the market labelled for pain relief in cattle? We have drugs that we can use like aspirin or Banamine that help with swelling and inflammation and reduce fevers. We can assume they help with pain as well but we don’t know. Cows can’t tell us if they feel better or how much better they feel after we give an injection of Banamine or some aspirin.
So how do you know what the right decision is when it comes to caring for a cow like Nermal? You don’t.
In this situation a farmer has to use their cow sense. We will be watching her closely, working with our veterinarians to monitor her condition. Making sure that she is safe and protected from injury, eating and drinking and not showing us signs of being in pain. And we will be hoping that she will make it for a little while longer. Times like this make being a dairy farmer suck but I am still glad to be here caring for my cows.