Friday, October 1, 2010

Decisions

So as we are at Bridget's 20th day of being ill, we finally had the tests run. She came back positive for MCF, Malignant Catarrhal Fever. Most publications (and I have read publications from CSU Vet School, MSU Vet School, Ag extensions in Iowa, Washington State and other places) say that most cows succumb in 10 days. Bridget is so far, beating the odds.

So we have decisions to make. While many of her symptoms have subsided - her nose is clear, she has a great appetite and is eating, she's more active (and feisty). Other symptoms have appeared or stabilized. Her temperature goes up and down, but has never hit below 102. Her eyes show signs of edema, and they are swollen with fluid and milky white. It seems to be affecting her vision, but she is not blind.

She has not yet shown signs that her systems are breaking down inside. Lots of things are going in - food and water. And all of those things are coming out as they should. Those are positive signs, too.

However, the vet seems negative about her complete recovery. He still thinks she will die from this, though some cows can survive, and I am still betting on Bridget to be one of those.

But we have decisions to make. If our sheep are carrying the OVH virus that causes this disease, then we, responsibly, shouldn't raise any more cows. We can attempt to breed this virus out of our flock, and we can be successful at that. It does not show signs of hanging around outside of its host, so if we can breed it out, it can go away. This also gives us the ability to possibly breed out the CL from our sheep, too, though this does hang around outside of the host. We have the winter going for us.

The process is to remove the ewe when the lamb is about 1 month old. In our case, this would mean that the ewe goes to be processed, either as mutton, or as dog food. But she has to go. This would then allow us to test the lambs for CL and OVH. If they have either, then we are unsuccessful. If they have neither, we can vaccinate for the CL to make sure (since it might hang around on fence posts or something) and know that we might be winning the war on both fronts. We could possibly replace our sheep flock in one go, keeping the ewe lambs and one ram lamb. We won't allow any outside sheep back on our farm.

This could start as soon as next month, as our sheep start to lamb. We would have to segregate the new lambs from anyone else, until all the ewes are gone.

This would allow us to keep Marlow, and Bridget, and possibly allow us to get more cows next spring. But it would mean that our sheep all go away. Shirley, Gertrude, Marcia, Cindy, Jan, Alice, Lucy, Velma, Daphne, Angel, Trouble, Betty, Pebbles, Peppermint Patty and Veronica. We would lose them all, and start with a new flock. Granted, they would all be raised on our farm (and bottle fed, so maybe they would all like us!) but it's hard to imagine saying goodbye to them all... But maybe it's the responsible thing to do, to breed out a virus that they carry, and a disease that chances are, they all have (aside from Peppermint Patty and Veronica, who were vaccinated at 8 weeks)