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Sunday, October 25, 2015

The cow clinic is open for business

A couple of our cows are still drooling. The Farmer took another look at the dosage on the Ivomec de-worming medication and realized he needed to give them about five times what he originally administered during his flying leaps through the herd. You have to spray the liquid on their backs. But first you have to corral them and sneak up on them. It’s a lot easier said than done.
Before he headed out to the barn to feed and do chores, I clipped a pedometer on his belt.
“We’re going to start counting our daily steps,” I announced.
“Why?” he shrugged.
“Because we are supposed to walk 10-12,000 steps a day,” I said.
“Says who?”
I convinced my husband that it was a good way to keep activity top of mind.
“Oh and when I get to 10,000 the pounds just fall off,” he said, shaking his head.
We got the cows in the barn by bringing fresh hay bales in where they could smell them. Step one, accomplished. Then we pushed them out the door where they were huddled at the entrance to the metal chute or alley with the head gate at the end.
“Just hold that bucket of sweet feed on your side of the headgate. When she puts her head through, push the gate lever down and it will hold her head in place.”
Theoretically, yeah. But this is a 1500lb Big Betty with an attitude. She wants the sweetfeed, all of it, then she is just going to shake that headgate lever off her neck and shove the whole gate open. And that’s exactly what she did. But by then she had her medication.
We are still learning just how strong our barn infrastructure needs to be to hold a cow in place. A lot stronger than it does to hold a sheep in place, that’s for sure.
This procedure went on for the next few minutes – push the cow into the chute, put the bar down behind her bum so she can’t escape, spray medication on her back, release. I ran out of sweet feed after Betty so she was the only one who got a treat. I’m pretty sure the rest of them could smell it and were quite confused about the trick.
Finally the only cow that remained to go in the chute was the sickest one of them all. Her chin was swollen with parasites and she had a foamy drool on her lip. But she didn’t like being the only one in the chute, so she took a run at the gate and, with all her strength, put her shoulder into it and busted it open.
“She’s the main reason I was doing this today,” the Farmer said, throwing his cane on the ground.
“You can still get her,” I encouraged. “Look. She’s right there, in the middle of the crowd around the hay feeder. Just sneak up on her and spray her back.”
The problem is, you have to pump the spray nozzle five times to get enough of a dosage. I am reminded of our big Belgian horse Misty, how she used to jump, all 1800 lbs. of her, straight up in the air if she heard a squirt from a spray bottle. I used to have to spray a cloth with bug repellent and wipe her down with it because she could not stand to be sprayed.
The Farmer snuck up behind the black drooling cow with the white face. She munched happily away on the hay, oblivious. It wasn’t the feeling of the cold, wet spray on her back, but the sound of the nozzle, I swear, that sent her reeling away from the feeder. She spun around and the Farmer got her again. She kicked her heels in the air and spun around in the other direction, trying to see where the noise was coming from. The Farmer kept jumping to stay behind her, out of sight. It was quite amusing to watch. Finally the startled cow took off toward the open pasture, a man in muddy duck shoes struggling to keep up with her, squirt bottle in hand.
“Run, Fisher, Run!” I laughed.
Mission accomplished, the Farmer limped back to the house, shook off his barn coat and kicked off his shoes. He pulled the pedometer off his belt and handed it to me. It read 5,000.
“Well that’s a good start,” I smiled.


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