I was tired last night.
Not hugely tired, mind you, but still ready for bed by 8pm. To keep myself awake a little longer, I pulled my favorite book off the shelf and got comfy in a chair by the wood stove that was muttering quietly. The book in question was Morrison's Feeds and Feeding; the 20th edition, this book was published in 1945. I adore this book. Front front to back, it has a little over one thousand pages. It can be dreadfully hard to read if you're not in a patient mood, but when you slow yourself down and really read through it, you can find some of the most amazing tidbits of information. I've used it extensively for my own animals over the years; whenever I had a question about feeds or animal care, I would pull out my Feeds and Feeding book.
The house was quiet, the dog was snoring, I was randomly flipping through pages in my book, slowing down in the section about dairy cows... Just reading whatever caught my eye. While flipping through, I happened to land on a page about hay feeding. Specifically, feeding timothy hay. I lazily began reading through the paragraph about it, seeing as that's what I've been feeding my animals for months now and knew I needed to order some more in the next few weeks.
As I read through the old text on those yellowed pages, I went from sleepiness to rigid alertness. I gasped as my eyes roved the words before me. Heart rate shot up. I had to re-read the same sentences over, and over again before I believed what I was reading.
Like a phantom come to haunt me, the words created a tormenting funeral procession of a sentence.
“The unsatisfactory nature of late-cut timothy hay for dairy cows when fed continuously as the only, or chief, roughage, is well shown by in experiments by the United States Department of Agriculture. Cows broke down on average in about a year and a half, and died or became sterile, when fed Timothy hay for long periods without any pasture. Calves from cows fed thus were born dead, or else weak and usually blind, and rarely survive past a couple of weeks.”
To explain my plight a bit: I had been feeding Mattie, my Jersey cow, nothing but late-cut timothy hay for months. What's worse, she was off pasture for the last few months of her pregnancy, creating a double-whammy. Remembering that this was a book written in the 40's, I dashed to the computer to do some more research on this. Surely this is outdated, right? Cows don't have that problem with timothy hay anymore, right??
My fears were confirmed as I scrolled through pages on the internet... It was true. Late cut timothy was was extremely deficient in vitamins A and D, as well as being dangerously low in calcium and phosphorus. For a non-lactating animal who was at least getting pasture, this proposed no threat in the least. To a high maintenance dairy cow though, who wasn't being fed a supplementary hay, OR allowed on pasture, it was lethal. One article went on to state that cows often shows symptoms of pneumonia before they die from such a cause.
I broke down. The symptoms were all so perfect... A dead calf, pneumonia, no pasture, no supplementary hay, straight timothy hay for months... I think I unwittingly killed my cow.
I'm not 100% positive that this was the cause of Mattie's death, but I'm highly suspicious. What else could it be, to cause such a torrent of problems all at the same time? Why oh why didn't I read that paragraph in my book sooner??? Why didn't I buy any supplementary hay for Mattie??
By the time 9pm rolled around, I was exhausted and still crying. I crawled into bed, not caring that it was so early, and tried not to think about the fact that I probably would have had a healthy cow and calf in my pasture right now, had it not been for my own stupidity.
Whoever came up with the phrase, "Ignorance is bliss", obviously never owned a dairy cow...