Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vaccinating cattle

The vet came today.

It's always a big occasion when the vet comes.  Farm calls are expensive so we try to get as much done in one fell swoop as possible.

Today we needed to get Bang's shots for two heifers as well as Lutalyse shots for a yearling heifer and Matilda, our Jersey.

But before we could welcome the vet, we needed to get ready.  This included a couple of stout O-rings to hold ropes attached to thrashing animals... well as adding a removable board above the barn gate to keep panicked animals from jumping the gate.  Don did these in the morning.
Then we borrowed some neighbor boys for extra "bodies" and started herding the cattle from the pasture into the corral.  Then we picked off the ones we didn't need and shooed the two calves into the barn.  Let's just say this was easier said than done.

Here's Smokey, Ruby's calf, looking highly suspicious.
I managed to get a rope around her neck, to her immense disgust.
We needed to fit her with a halter.  Here's our basket of halters.  Surely one will fit?

No such luck.  Don had to take the closest-fitting one into the shop...

...and burn three more holes in order to tighten it enough.

After a minor rodeo, I got the halter on the calf and attached a rope to it to make it easier to catch her.  As it turned out, the halter was still too big and came off her nose.  Oh well.

Next came Raven, now just a bit over a year old.

Surprisingly, she was a whole lot easier to handle than Smokey.  I fit her with a halter and rope without much trouble.

Make a note: always remember to wear mud boots, not my new thrift-store sneakers, into the barn.

When the vet arrived, the first thing we did was give Matilda a shot of Lutalyse.  Lutalyse is an abortant.  After her ill-timed heat cycle last April, we needed to abort the fetus or we'd have a calf born in January, which would almost guarantee a dead calf in our harsh Idaho winters.  We prefer to breed our cows in late August or early September so the calves are born in late spring.  This will be easier to control once we build a bull pen for Gimli.

But meanwhile poor Matilda needed a shot of Lutalyse.  She was not amused.

Then it was Raven's turn.  Raven also needed a shot of Lutalyse, not only because we don't want a calf born in winter, but also because she's still too young to have a calf.  We like to breed our heifers at about 15 months of age, so they'll be just about two years old when they have their first calf.  Once she aborts the fetus, she'll go into a heat cycle and Gimli can breed her.  This way her calf will be born next spring when she's about two years old.

But Raven needed more than a Lutalyse shot.  She also needed her Bang's shot, which also requires an ear tag, and ear tattoo, and a blood sample (because she's older than a year).  Here the vet is trying to draw blood.  Raven didn't cooperate, so after more rodeo antics the vet got the blood out of a neck vein.
After this it was Smokey's turn.  All Smokey needed was a Bang's shot, her ear tattoo, and her ear clip.  Sorry, we didn't get any photos of this because it was, er, rather a lively event.

That's it for vet calls!  We should be good until next year.


  1. Raven looks like an Angus. Matilda is a Jersey. Is Smokey a Dexter?

    Gimli was a busy boy. Tsk, tsk.

    Anonymous Twit

  2. I have a message for cat haters - why not just wear a big sign that says "I'm insecure and cats sense it."

    Dogs, regardless of size, are a nuisance to neighbors and others when the dog owner ("guardian" or "caregiver" for those very sensitive people living in San Francisco) is irresponsible. A barking dog is a pest. A biting dog is a danger. An aggressive dog is a nuisance. The bigger the dog, the bigger the problem. Little dogs can be kicked out of the way, a big dog cannot. Having said that, I'm sure Patrice is a responsible pet owner. I not so sure about the people who get pitbulls or mastiffs or rottweilers. Those people often seem to get dogs purely for status and for the machismo factor, nothing more. And they are often (not always) irresponsible pet owners.

    A cat, on the other hand, doesn't bark all night long. A cat is rarely aggressive. And a cat buries its poop. I'd like to see a dog do that, especially in public parks and on beaches.

    Whether a dog owner or a cat fancier, please keep your pets well-fed and healthy. I intend to rely on pets as a protein source if TEOWAWKI happens. Yep, a barbequed rack of dog ribs sounds pretty good...with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

    Hannibal Lector

  3. The word "vaccine/vaccinate" comes directly from the Latin word, "vacca," and later from the French "vache" all of which which mean "cow."

    Bill Smith

  4. In LA, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture gives Bangs shots free. We just contact ourlocal guy and he comes out when we have the heifers penned and gives them their shot, though they do get touchy if they are over 15 months. How much does a bangs shot cost?
    Lorenzo Poe

  5. I am not sure how to take using abortants on your animals. That seems wrong to me. Why not keep the males from the females? I am not trying to start a fight about it. I just don't understand why you wouldn't prevent it in the first place or if the female conceived then allow nature to take its course. To kill the calf is wrong.

    Ouida Gabriel

  6. a call and visit for the vet is alot like a call and visit from the plumber..make sure ya get it all done while the vet or plumber is on the premises on one service call...sure can save alot of sister in law and i do this with the vet an all our pets/animals too...bills can easily quadruple if you have to take the pets in one at a time. besides, the little rodeos are kinda fun!

  7. To answer questions in the order they arose:

    All our cows are pure Dexter, regardless of color (Dexters come in black, red, and dun). The exceptions are Matilda, who's a Jersey, and her calf Pearly who is half Jersey, half Dexter. We've never had an Angus or any other breed.

    Not sure how much the Bang's shot cost individually; the vet bill included all the other stuff we had done, and also included the cost of the farm call. We haven't received the itemized bill yet.

    AFA using abortants on our cows: well sure, we'd love to keep the bull locked up so he couldn't breed them at the wrong time. The big question is, where? We've tried building fences and pens to keep bulls in, and let me tell you they'll move heaven and earth (and fences and walls) to be with their girls, *especially* when they're in heat. Bulls are STRONG. We just watched Gimli, our smallish Dexter bull, casually butt over a 600 lb hay bale in a moment of friskiness. Fences hardly matter to a determined bull.

    That said, we have plans to build a bull pen this fall using railroad ties cemented in place and stout 2x6 construction. If we keep him confined for about three months out of the year (May-June-July) he can have the girls the rest of the time.

    But also remember - aborting a calf fetus isn't the most pleasant choice, but these animals are *livestock,* not pets, and not people. I don't feel any more emotion giving a cow a Lutalyse shot than I do shooting a two-yr-old steer and putting him in the freezer as meat. Our animals are treated humanely to the point of spoiling them, but once in awhile we have to face reality. A calf born in winter in north Idaho stands a very good chance of dying, which puts a MUCH bigger strain (physical and emotional) on the cow than an early-term abortion.

  8. I know y'all worked hard today! And I also know you're giving thanks you didn't need to brand and de-horn!

    Does Lutalyse affect the milk?

    A. McSp

  9. Thanks for the info about the range of colors in the Dexter breed. Learn something new here all the time.

    Anonymous Twit

  10. Thank you for answering my question Patrice. I appreciate it.

    Ouida Gabriel