Milk Fever

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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"She got up and ran away from me." "You have that effect on women." I was innocently calling into the clinic to say that the cow that was previously unable to stand because of milk fever, was in fact, not in need of a second calcium treatment, but our receptionist couldn't resist the opportunity to credit this cow's miraculous recovery to an instinctive reaction by females (of any species) to rise from the laying position and flee when they see me. Not to be outdone, I suggested that the once paralyzed cow was actually cured of her ailment by my mere presence on the farm, and that sometimes I don't even need needles or medicines to cure these beasts. She was rightly skeptical of my explanation of the events, and sent me off to the next farm call of the day. Another time, I was kneeling, cautiously running the intravenous calcium into a down milk-fever cow one minute, and frantically running alongside her trying to get my needle from out of her jugular vein as she galloped away the next.

Milk fever is the result of the cow's unselfish funneling of her body's calcium into her milk. When the cow does not have enough calcium to support her own body's functions, the symptoms of weak muscles, including the skeletal muscles, heart, pupils, and gastrointestinal tract cause the inability to stand, decreased heart and intestinal function, and decreased ability for the pupils to contract in bright light. It's one of the few conditions we get to treat with nearly instantaneous results, where a flat-out paralyzed 1500-pound animal can be up and about in sometimes just a few minutes after receiving the intravenous treatment with calcium.

June is Dairy Month, and we should all get a different kind of "milk fever." Get your 3-a-day dairy servings, and enjoy extra summer-type dairy products like ice cream, shakes, malts, and whipped cream in addition to the usual milk, cheese, and butter. Our dairy farmers work hard every day, and the market does not always pay the true worth of their product. The higher grocery store prices of dairy don't really correlate to the prices dairy farmers are paid for the product, and often times the price of milk is the same today as it was literally decades ago. Americans enjoy the safest food supply and one of the lowest percent of household income paid for food in the entire world. Much of the credit for this quality and affordability goes to the producers, who have to shoulder the burden of high standards and low profit margins to make it possible.

On behalf of everyone at Watkins Veterinary Clinic, I would like to recognize Dairy Month and thank the hard-working dairy families in our area for all the wholesome and affordable products we enjoy because of their efforts. Got Milk?

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