The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Brief but Spectacular Life of Emily the Cow

December 16th, 2018 · 3 Comments · Posted in Blog

The day before Thanksgiving the animals went out to graze but Emily, our Jersey cow, was nowhere to be seen among them. I found her lying on her side in the mud in front of the shelter in the main paddock. The vet who arrived a couple of hours later declared Emily hypothermic. With record cold temperatures bearing down, we dragged her behind the tractor into the shelter, covered her with hay and blankets, and began a three-week process of trying to nurse her back to health.

Alas, it was not to be. Emily never regained her appetite and was never upright again. Turns out, she had nursed her calves over the summer literally to the point of exhaustion. With bitter cold again approaching, yesterday we decided she had suffered enough. The local cow disposal unit carried her away.

Emily was a yearling when I bought her from a local dairy. She was in a head restraint with other young heifers inside a barn and had never been outdoors. We loaded her into the back of the pickup and set her loose to graze 12 acres of pasture. Over the ensuing five years, she gave us three calves and lots of milk that we turned into butter and cheese. She had one fetus die, and was always pretty small and skinny even for a Jersey. Yet Emily was tough and resilient even through record snow and cold spells.

Apparently what killed her was trying to nurse two calves simultaneously. One was a year old when the second was born. The older steer continued to nurse until we butchered him in October. I thought that offering Emily fresh pasture, sun and water, would be enough–nature would take care of the rest. But according to the vet, modern cows just aren’t designed to operate that way. They need supplemental feed. I felt really dumb. A bucket of grain each day would have been all Emil needed to survive two calves in fine fettle.

Bill Elsworth, the elderly farmer who sells us our non-GMO feed, was consoling. “It wasn’t dumb, Ed,” he said with his best bedside manner. “It was just inexperience.”

Of course we feel terrible that Emily had to suffer the consequences of our naiveté. We will sorely miss her. But the last calf was a female, a cross with a Red Angus bull. We named her Daisy. She is in line to become our next breeder cow. And what a great mom she is replacing.

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  • Elvert Barnes

    SO SORRY to hear such news and am especially appreciative of the fact that you are able to express that your inexperience may have played at part. My heart goes out to you and Lane. My grandparents owned an almost 100 acre farm. Had all kinds of animals and crops. I don’t know how they did it but managed to do very well. I’m sure they must’ve experienced similar things.



  • Russo Family Farm

    Hi, I shed more than a tear for Emily. I’ve been reading the blog for a few years and have reveled in the animal stories, probably more than I should. Though I think of myself as a practical farmer, my domain is purely vegetables, and any animals that cross the farm are varmints. I never though I’d cry for a cow mom who lived a natural life and did what mothers do for their offspring. (pls don’t publish this). Bless you. Now, set some grains out for the mothers of the world.

  • Ed Bruske

    Thanks for those thoughts. Sorry I am just seeing this now, almost three months later