Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hand Me the Scalpel ... Stat!

Hand me the scalpel! Stat!

Perhaps it wasn't quite as dramatic as all that. There weren't any cliffhanger, TV medical moments as I fulfilled my role as able assistant during three mornings of working baby calves. I'm no surgical scrub nurse, but you get what you pay for, right?

I did keep things lined up and ready to use, deftly alternating hands to give Randy the next instrument to be used as we worked 132 baby calves.

First, we separated the cows and calves, sending the cows into another pen to await the return of their babies. (It's a little tough to get a photo of this process when I'm helping with the sorting. It's frowned upon if a calf goes by me when I'm clicking the camera shutter.)

Then the babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute. Though I didn't get a photo, it's not quite as simple as that. Jake gets the unenviable job of pushing the calves down the lane and is sometimes rewarded with a swift kick for his efforts.

We'll let this little black baldy illustrate the process. Once the calf is in the calf cradle, the "doctor's appointment" begins.

First, he received his number, 2105.

We use eartags and ear notches to identify our cattle. This year's calf crop has numbers starting in 2, since they were born in 2012. (Last year's started in 1 to signify 2011, and so on.)

We give each calf two injections.

One is Ultrabac 7, an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle. People often question the reasons for giving immunizations to animals that will eventually enter the food chain. But these injections are like giving immunizations to our own children. It helps keep the calves healthy, and healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet. The black baldy (and his friends) also got growth implants in their right ears. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow. The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. Randy believes it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers.

And, yes, we eat the cattle we raise here on our farm.

The bull calves, like Number 2105, also become steers during their time in the chute.

Randy makes an incision in the sac.

He pulls the testicles through the incision.

And then he cuts the cords, adding a squirt of iodine for germ control.

With all the steps done, little 2105 rejoins his fellow "class"mates - none the worse for wear.

After we got the process completed, the babies were back with their mothers, just in time for a snack.

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