May morning after rain

May morning after rain

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It's a Boy? It's a Girl? It's a Calf!

I remember opening the wrapped package that revealed whether our first grandchild was going to be a boy or a girl. Right after we opened that pink-framed sonogram, I went to the K-State Union bookstore and bought the first of many purple dresses.

Our heifers recently had their first "obstetrics" appointment. And while we don't know whether they'll be having bull calves or females, we do know which heifers are carrying "little bundles of joy." Well, they won't be so little when they are born in late January or early February. They'll likely be 80 pounds of boy or girl calf.
Veterinarian Dr. David Harder recently did a "preg check" of our 25 heifers. These were the female cattle born on the County Line in early 2015 who are supposed to be expecting their first babies. All but two of them were pregnant. We will fatten the other two and use them for meat in the freezer.
To determine how far along the heifers are, Dr. Harder did a physical manual examination. To do that, we run the heifers through a lane into a squeeze chute to safely restrain the animal and also to keep the people involved safe.Then Dr. Harder estimated how far along the pregnancy was by the size of the baby.
The assistant recorded the ear tag number of each heifer, made a notation about how far the pregnancy had advanced and recorded the shots given to each animal.
I know there are people who don't believe any type of shots should be given to animals grown for human consumption. However, we do have the veterinarian give shots to the heifers, cows and calves as they go through the chute.

The heifers (and later this week, the cows) are given a blackleg booster shot. Blackleg is a highly fatal disease of the skeletal and heart muscle of cattle. We also give a combination shot that prevents leptospiriosis and BVD. Leptospiriosis is an bacterial infection that may cause abortion or stillbirth. BVD stands for Bovine Viral Diarrhea - 'nuff said. Dr. Harder also gave a shot as a dewormer to control parasites like worms, lice and liver flukes.

Dr. Harder gave the heifers a shot of Scour Bos. The vaccination helps prevent scours (diarrhea) in their babies. Cattlemen want to produce healthy cattle. It's better for the cattle, and it's also better for the bottom line. Just like we gave recommended vaccinations to our children, we believe it's important to give our cattle every medical advantage to have a healthy life.
This is the second year we tested for anaplasmosis, a disease that is on the rise in Kansas cattle herds. Dr. Harder took blood samples from under the tail on a representative number of our herd.
Greg Hanzilcek, the head of the Kansas State University Diagnostic Lab, said in a Kansas Livestock Association newsletter that there were as many confirmed cases of anaplasmosis in Kansas cattle last year as veterinarians had ever seen.

Anaplasmosis is a a vector-borne disease, which means it's transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. It causes the destruction of red blood cells in cattle and other ruminants, so it can cause anemia. It can ultimately cause death, and it can also result in spontaneous abortions in cows. Last year, after the tests came back positive, Randy had to stir up a concoction of mineral, grain and antibiotic to mix into the cattle feed in a ration directed by Prairie Vista Veterinary Clinic. He fed the mixture once a week for 60 days in an effort to rid our herd of the anaplasmosis.

We don't have this year's test results yet. But, if the test is positive again, we will handle it in the same way. Animal activists - and even trendy restaurants - would like antibiotic use to be banned in feed animals. However, as caretakers of our animals, it's important to treat disease, just like we'd treat an illness in our own families.

It's an extra hit on the pocketbook, since it requires us to purchase additional grain, mineral and medicine. We're definitely not doing it for our own health or the health of our financial bottom line. But it's important to be responsible stewards of the animals, despite what several national restaurants' marketing firm would have consumers believe.
These are the photos you get when your job is to slam the trailer door shut!
After their doctor's appointment, we loaded up the heifers and took them to the pasture south of our house, where they'll await the arrival of their babies this winter. Right now, they also have access to an alfalfa field for grazing.

Later this week, Dr. Harder will be back for appointments with some of the older mama cows, the bulls and the calves to get ready for winter. Busy week!


  1. Very interesting Kim.
    Cheri and Cam just went through that on the ranch too.
    You are good stewards of your land and animals.

  2. Replies
    1. We will be doing more of that this Friday and again next week.