Ruby the shorthorn heifer was very sore this morning and couldn’t be milked. She appeared to have mastitis in 3 of the 4 quarters of her udder. We rang the vet immediately who told us to use milking cow antibiotic syringes twice a day. These are little plastic tubes with an antibiotic cream that is inserted into the teat and the creamy contents squeezed into the udder. We keep them in stock in our medicine cupboard along with the dry cow syringes which are used to dry off cows after weaning or when milking ceases.
They advised this as the first treatment only, rather than injecting antibiotics as well. There were no signs at all last night of any trouble in her udder and we actually had over 3 gallons from her yesterday from 2 milkings. However, she was so sore first thing today that Jethro was quite worried that he might have to dry her off completely, and I had to rush out to buy milk as yesterday’s supply had to be poured down the drain and there was none even for a cup of tea.
Tonight Ruby was MUCH better, so much better in fact that we are all thrilled and amazed. Jethro was able to use the milking machine and her behaviour was actually no worse than usual. She stands quite well while eating her food and then I think when the machine feels as if it is pulling on her udder, rather like a calf suckling for too long, she kicks it off. Usually Jethro manages 3 sessions per milking and after she kicks it off for the third time he stops.
Jethro inserted more of these antibiotic tubes after milking and will do so again tomorrow morning. If all goes well it looks like we could actually be back on our own milk soon. The withdrawal period for the tubes we used is 96 hours [4days] however we will double it [as organic farmers do] and tip away the milk for 8 days after the last treatment.
It is not just the household that uses this milk. We use the surplus milk to supplement the feeding of our weaner pigs and we have one fattener, due to go on Wednesday who really loves this extra milk. He was the smallest of a batch that were sold last week and to make up for being on his own we have been giving him milk twice a day, he rushes to the door and then rushes to his dish when he sees the bucket of milk and it has had the desired effect upon his figure. He was too lean as his greedy brothers obviously pushed him out of the way while they ate the most but he has now gained weight at an increased rate with extra food and milk. As an uncastrated boar he must go before he reaches his piggy adolescence and starts producing testosterone as testosterone taints the pork and renders it uneatable. From tomorrow, I shall cheer him up with some old brassicas from the veggie garden, as the garden needs clearing, until he goes on his last journey to make up for the sudden lack of milk.
We have no idea how the mastitis started. Ruby has clean straw every day, her udder is washed with teat wipes before every milking and udder cream is applied after every milking. The area of her byre she is milked in is washed every time both before and after milking and we have an old dishwasher through which the milking machine and all the pipes go twice a day. This dishwasher has been adapted so the tubes and clusters are actually connected to the upper parts of the machine.
We are really meticulous over the hygiene aspect as it is raw milk that we all drink. I guess it was just a case of bad luck or the fact that bacteria lurks all around all of us all of the time.