Friday, November 19, 2010

A Coat for a Cow

Sadie is an older bovine at the sanctuary. She is arthritic, especially in her back left leg, which was damaged when UC Davis students loaded her improperly into a chute. Her stifle fractured and we were unsure if she'd ever be able to recover - she was already 5-7 years old, and a leg injury is far more devastating for a 1,200 lb animals than even a 100 lb one. But she  recovered, and although she walks with a permanent limp, she keeps up with the rest of the cattle.

As she gets closer to 13, the wear and tear of that damaged leg has taken its toll. A lot of her energy reserves go toward accommodating that awkward leg and gait. She is much more slender than any of the other cattle, including other former dairy cows. While she'll never be as robust as Howie, the charolais, or Tommy, the angus, she is more underweight than we like to see. So she gets a large daily ration of sweet grain, and she's already foraging on rich clover and other grasses.

But she didn't develop the nice thick coat cows grow for winter. She is a little fuzzier but not more more so than her summer sheen. She has no fat pads to speak of, unlike the rest of the herd. And where we are, it's getting down into the 30s in the evening and will probably be colder as winter progresses.

So we got her a coat. A blanket made for horses. It's not heavyweight, we don't want to overheat her rumen or her, but it's waterproof and provides enough warmth for a skinny cow.

Sadie is not a social cow. She hasn't ever really gotten over her treatment on the dairy farm - she was tail-docked without anesthesia at a year of age (imagine putting a rubber band on the tail of a 2-yr-old dog) and she suffered from untreated mastitis, a painful udder infection. It's taken her time to adjust to us, but slowly she's come to the point where one or two of us can go out and pet her, give her massages.

I wasn't sure how she'd react to the coat, so I started slow. Every time animal care staff went out to give her grain, I'd tag along with the large blanket. I let her sniff her and then just started massaging her wounded leg and hip, something she loves for us to do. After a few days, I started rubbing the blanket against her. And a couple days ago, I draped it over her body. For her, this blanket came with food and probably felt warm and comfortable. She didn't balk or freak out over the blanket. Today, she is wearing it like a pro. She will be monitored, of course, to make sure her range of motion is not limited with the straps - cattle and horses are not built the same and what may accommodate the movement of a horse may not with a cow.

Plus, she just looks adorable

Sadie Showing off her New Coat

Horse Coats Not Just For Horses!

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