I bought Reeses knowing she had recently had a full term stillbirth. Full disclosure about her circumstances was afforded me. As she had borne a live calf before that, I wasn’t concerned.
Since then, she has had another late term stillbirth, a possible early term miscarriage–she cycled, was seen bred by our bull, then didn’t cycle, but when checked was not pregnant–and has not cycled regularly or been successfully bred in over a year since that.
As I write this, without looking at my calendar and her paperwork, I would guess that in all, Reeses has gone nearly three years of her not yet six year life without a successful breeding.
Let me be frank, if Reeses was not a pet; if she was not as smart and sweet and funny and wonderful as she is, there were options other than struggling with her infertility issues that I would have seized on without hesitation. But she is all of those things. She is all of those things and I love her.
When the endless rains and flooding hit SC and we were forced to throw in the towel and part with our herds, I had the opportunity to sell Ree. I withheld her; she had just had her second stillbirth, back to back and I was afraid that she would end up on someone’s plate. Please do understand that I know this is common protocol;most people won’t house or feed an unproductive cow–it just isn’t practical, and I have no issues with it under most circumstances and would normally do it myself, but this is Ree and again, I love her.
Her special needs and my worry for her and quest to find a resolve have now simply become part of my every day life. Over the course of her challenges I have spent a great deal of time and money on every test and effort my vet and I can come up with. I have researched and asked questions of respected professionals in every field of agricultural science from Jersey breeder to animal nutritionist. I have altered her diet, her minerals, adding this and changing that–ordering specialty mixtures of minerals and supplements from organic suppliers, testing, testing, testing…charting, charting, charting…Hoping, hoping, hoping…
My grandmother once told me ” You’re like a junkyard bulldog; when you sink your teeth into something, there’s no letting go for you.” She was right. For me, failure is not an option and when it forces it’s way into my life, it crushes my spirit. My tenacity is actually one of my greatest weaknesses. There is no surrender in me when I care about my cause and sometimes, walking away is the best option.
The last of the tests have come in. Reeses is, thankfully, free of ANY disease that would inhibit her ability to carry a calf. By all accounts, her issue appears to be singularly hormonal. Our course of action is to begin hormone therapy in the fall through our vet, who has also been running himself ragged for her; making calls to universities and colleagues and spending an awful lot of his free time pursuing an answer for us, because as he told me when he drew the last of her tests, ” I know she’s your baby. ”
Hormone therapy and AI is our last resort. At first, I had mixed feelings about it. The idea of injecting one of my animals with hormones was not appealing to me. Then, I remembered my own struggles, 7 years of infertility, two miscarriages and treatments and tests of all kinds that ultimately resulted in my son and I found peace with it. We need some help now and then. If this is what it takes to get her back on track and make her happy, then so be it.
Cows have emotions. Anyone who disbelieves that should stand in a field of cows with their calves for an hour and just observe without prejudice. Ree longs for a calf. You can see it in her eyes when she licks the calves of her herd mates. You can hear it in her call on the rare occasion she does cycle; a mournful, pitiful call to the bull, unlike the others. If there is a calf in her proximity, she is caring for it. It is not purely a selfish pursuit for me to try here. I want to see Ree nurse her own calf–for her.
I know how it feels to long for your own baby. I know what it’s like to see every woman under the sun give birth and congratulate them while mourning your own losses. I know the feeling of holding another’s infant and having your heart bleed. I know what it’s like to mourn the babies that might have been.
What will I do if our last ditch plan fails ? I surely have no clue. I’ll sink my teeth in that one as it comes.