Have you ever had to do a job with someone where it gets tense? Everyone’s walking around on edge, partially dreading the task at hand and you just know there might be a “bleepty, bleep, bleep” every other sentence while trying to get the job done? Now that I’ve painted that picture, can you guess the two times that seem to fit this description at the farm? You guessed it! Puttin’ up hay and workin’ cows! I’m not sure why these two jobs always seem to be so stressful when starting out, but for some reason they are. Probably because if anything goes wrong it could be a very big deal. This weekend we worked cattle and I got to be the assistant. I filled syringes, loaded the ear tagger and helped sort. We only had a couple of minor incidents– including the one where a couple of the ornery girls scratched their backs on a gate and completely pulled it up off the hinge and knocked it over. What the ??? Seriously, girls, get it together!
Working cattle meant pushing all of them through the chute– mother cows, heifers and the calves. One by one they each got a shot of Vira Shield and Clostridium. Both are common vaccines to aid in prevention of diseases and illnesses in healthy cows. My job was to prepare an alcohol drenched cotton ball and the syringes each time for Jace, who would then inject them subcutaneously in their neck. That just means they were injected under the skin. Did you like my doctor lingo there? Just call me “Dr. Anderson”– haha!
Once finished I quickly handed over the ear tagger to my father in law who inserted a Dominator fly tag into each ear. This is an insecticide tag that is used to help control flies. As the animal moves it’s head backward to scratch, it spreads the insecticide onto it’s back. Now, this is much later than usual to get a fly control program going, but the main thing is we got it done before the flies got too bad.
It’s so important to have a fly control program in place to help with limiting the spread of pink eye. While in the chute being tagged, we checked their eyes. We looked to make sure they weren’t droopy, cloudy or irritated– all signs of pink eye. This year we are in good shape! Flies can travel very far distances and can spread pink eye from herd to herd and multiple animals in a short amount of time resulting in swelling around their eyes to the point they cannot see. If left untreated there are other more severe effects too. The goal is to get a fly program in place just before the warm season starts. Of course with warmer temperatures comes more flies.
The last thing we did was to spread a fly powder over the back of the animal and it’s face. We rubbed the powder down with a brush to help it get further down into the hair as added protection. In addition to the fly tags and powder, we also have fly bags hanging out in the pasture that the cows can rub up against which releases powder onto them. As you can see there are a few things we do to help combat against flies. For the most part, it seems to work until cooler weather comes and they are all much more comfortable again.
After a couple pairs were moved through the chute (a pair is a mama and her calf), we sorted out a few more. One by one they went through until we were all finished, leaping out of the chute as happy as ever to be done. It was so nice to have a few of us working them. Things moved quickly and efficiently– aside from the sorting part. In case you’re wondering, that’s probably the hardest part along with getting them into the chute which is really what makes things tense. It’s so important to try to remain calm, though. Animals can pick up on that stuff and it only makes it harder to work them. When you’re working with an animal this large you definitely want to make sure they’re calm that’s for sure!
You could tell they were all ready to get back to the pasture we brought them off of to be worked. They balled like little babies begging to go back and eat. We moved them up and over the driveway back to the pasture and they were all happy cows again! The next time we’ll move them through the chute is in the fall when the calves have to be worked again. Until then… the ladies and gents are settled back into their favorite pasture for the time being and Jace is very happy we were able to safely and quickly move them all through.
*Side note- I don’t recommend trying to take pictures while working cows especially if you have a job in the process… Haha…