Monday, November 18, 2013

I'll Take the Works!

Sometimes, ladies just need a spa day.
"You go first."
"No, you go first. I insist."
 Maybe she's lost her "earring" and needs a new splash of yellow to go with her black coat.
Or maybe she needs a generous spray of "perfume."

While this post about the veterinarian's visits to the County Line may have started out with tongue planted firmly in cheek, this appointment is important to our operation. It's one way to keep our cattle herd healthy and profitable.

Dr. Dayul Dick from Prairie Vista Veterinary Clinic in South Hutchinson has been at the County Line for three separate visits this fall as we've put different groups of cattle through the working chute. Last Thursday, he preg-checked 25 heifers and found one open one. In other words, one of these first-time mamas did not get pregnant. We will keep the open heifer and will feed her until she's about 1,200 pounds. Then, we'll take her to Ellinwood Packing, where she will become meat for our freezer.

One other heifer thought she was at a rodeo instead of a doctor's appointment and jumped several gates and fences. So, she made a one-way trip to the sale barn. We try to cull females with a "less-than-pleasant disposition. (It's a good thing the same doesn't apply to farm wives on an occasional bad day, but I guarantee you I won't be jumping fences.)

Thursday's visit was Dr. Dick's third and final trip to the County Line for working cattle this fall. He came a couple of weeks ago, and we "worked" the calves born this past January and February. We gathered them off of the Ninnescah pasture on October 19. They now weigh an average of 613 pounds each, and we will keep them as feeder calves through the winter, before selling them at the sale barn in the spring. The past two years, due to drought, we've sold the calves in the fall. This year, with more plentiful rains, we have the feedstuffs to nourish the calves and the mamas all winter, so we'll help the calves "pack on the pounds" before their trip to the sale barn next spring.

On November 4, we brought their mothers back to the farm, and they had their own appointment with the vet later that week.

For both the heifers and the cows, Dr. Dick does a manual exam to see if each is pregnant, and, if so, how far along she is. Yes, the doctor's hand really is where you think it is. He does wear an oversized plastic glove.  The vet assistant records the animal's tag number and the estimated gestation for the calf she is carrying. Sometimes, they've inputted it directly into a laptop computer, but this time, they used an old-fashioned pen and paper list.
While in the squeeze chute, the vet assistant gave a couple of shots to each cow and to the feeder calves. Just like we gave recommended vaccinations to our own children, we believe it's important to give our cattle every medical advantage to have a healthy life. Dr. Dick gave the cows a booster shot to prevent blackleg, a highly fatal disease of the skeletal and heart muscle of cattle. We also give a combination shot that prevents leptospiriosis and BVD. Lepto is a bacterial infection that may cause abortion or stillbirth. BVD stands for Bovine Viral Diarrhea.

Remember that dose of "perfume" from the photos above? It's actually a pour-on solution to control internal and external parasites, like lice, worms and liver flukes.
While the vet is on the "business end," Randy is at the other end. Remember those "earrings" I talked about earlier? We use yellow ear tags on our cattle. Sometimes, just like the rest of we girls, someone loses an ear "adornment." Then, Randy puts in another tag for identification. Initially, the ear tag number reveals the age of the cow. (For example, the calves born this year have an ear tag that begins with a 3 for 2013. Next year's calves will have ear tags beginning with a 4.) But, when we have to use a replacement tag, the birth year is no longer part of the ID. One he used as a replacement this year was "R19," with the "R" designating "Randy." (I may need to request equal time and ask for some "K" tags next year.)

If the cow doesn't have its original ear tag, Randy tries to determine her age by checking her teeth. 
He feels along the bottom gum to see how long the teeth are or if they are missing teeth. (Cattle only have teeth along the bottom.)
If the cow has shorter teeth or is missing teeth, it's a sign of aging, and we will likely cull her from the herd after her baby is born. He told the vet assistant his estimate, which she recorded on her inventory list.
(I'm thinking I should have taken a video of this process instead of still shots. Sometimes they are "shy" about revealing their teeth. Unfortunately, I can relate all too well about this teeth business!)

Now that the doctor appointments are over, our "girls" are now ladies in waiting, eating and drinking to maintain their body condition so they are ready to deliver their little 80-pound bundles of joy this winter. 


  1. Wonderful post about your daily, busy life!

    1. Thanks, Madge! It was great to have you visit a day in the life of the County Line. Thanks for taking time to comment!