When we brought Rosie to our farm 2.5 years ago, she strolled off the trailer and took our young steer 'Shuggy' and heifer 'Helen' under her wings and was instantly the boss. She had a calm demeaner and a vibe that commanded respect so no other would dare challenge her. She was our Matriarch.
She birthed a gorgeous boy, 'Ruairidh' the next spring, who she allowed to feed until he was 16 months old! You should have seen the position he had to get in to have a drink! She is a fantastic mother.
But. Rosie has been going downhill for a few months now.
The Vet's diagnosis was heart failure. She has had a cough of sorts since we brought her home, but with regular vet checks nothing showed up, until a few months ago.
Rose was pregnant and had started losing weight and coughing more and the vet eventually diagnosed her with congestive heart failure. He told us to wait it out to see if she was able to deliver the calf. If Rosie hadn't been pregnant, the vet's recommendation was to put her to the butcher.
It is hard to get your head around putting an animal to the butcher, when you had vowed for it to live out a long life on your farm. But we understood. Her mood was very low and we weren't 100% sure she wasn't in any pain.
A month later Rosie birthed a gorgeous ginger calf named Aila ( meaning bringer of light and from a strong place) which she did with such grace. We welcomed wee Aila into the world 5 weeks ago and she is a bundle of joy.
Rosie fed her well for the first week or two (the vet said her milk would be low due to the lack of blood to the heart) and then we could see Aila was hungry and was attempting to eat hay and beef ration. (that we give to the lactating cows as a treat, or to get them somewhere you need them to go.)
We tried to bottle feed, but she was having none of it. As the weeks went on Rosie grew weaker and we decided to hire an excavator to dig a hole to bury her if she collapsed one night. You see, they don't remove dead cows from farms anymore and they also can't be donated to the local zoo. We had to try and think ahead, as hard as that may be.
As Rosie's milk dried up, Aila was now trying to steal milk from Helen, who had just given birth to Fiona. Another healthy ginger calf.
Helen is perhaps what you would call feisty. She will not donate milk to anyone. We had a hard enough time trying to convince her to feed her own daughter.
As Aila's hunger grew and 1 week old Fiona surpassed her in size and weight, we were torn between what to do. Rosie was so weak that she now couldn't protect Aila if they were out in the field and coyotes came around. And we didn't want to keep them both fenced in until Aila was big enough to handle herself, which is nearly 12 months old at least. We weren't optimistic Rosie would make 1 month let alone a year.
Now we were back to thinking what is best for both of them.
If Rosie wasn't here then maybe, just maybe, we could convince Aila to take feed from us.
If we did nothing, then would both of them deteriorate and we would lose mother and daughter?
For many nights Calum and I discussed it back and forth until one morning Calum went out before sunrise and sat with Rosie and watched her struggle to breathe and expelling water from her lungs. I went out and watched the fall of our Matriarch heifer become a mere shadow of herself, and at that moment we decided that we had to say goodbye to Rosie.
Monday morning a gentleman came and collected her and she went with no fuss. Maybe she was just done or maybe there was no fight left in her.
Calum and I were left in tears, as those decisions are ours to make and to bear thereafter.
Was it the right decision? Yesterday I nearly threw up thinking that we made it wrong. Today, as we try to feed Aila and realise how hungry she is and was, it may have been the right call. But one thing is true, that my heart is so heavy with the loss of such a big presence in our field, that I'm not sure that hole will ever be filled.
Rest in peace dear Rosie Red. x