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Baxter Black: The Rookie DVM

How many of you have ever had a new veterinarian out to your place? You think you're scared!

One of the hazards of a livestock veterinary practice is that it is the one specialty in vet medicine where the client almost always knows more than the new graduate veterinarian! Ya, see, in vet school we spent years learning diseases and treatments. We were taught hundreds of possible ailments that might afflict yer critters.

By the time we finally escape and are turned loose on the unsuspecting public, we are bursting with knowledge. They've packed it in our brains like sand in a rat hole! Only problem is, we haven't figgered out which diseases get priority when we're tryin' to come up with a diagnosis.

Say I was lookin' at a feedlot steer with a swollen foot. My brain would be swimmin' with possibilities – ergot, frost bite, fractured sesamoids, BVD, corns…While I'm sifting my computer-like memory bank for tests to run to determine how to diagnose the limping steer, the feedlot cowboy is shuffling his feet. It's the third steer like this he's pulled this week and the 99th one he's seen in the last five years. He knows what it is. The odds are in his favor.

Or the rancher with an Anaplasmosis cow. He's seen hundreds of them. The new vet's never seen one! Same with Erysipelas in hogs or bumblefoot in sheep.

New livestock vets learn a lot their first year, thanks to the kindness and patience of many livestock producers.

The new vet that goes into a dog and cat practice still have the same problems sorting out priorities but the average dog or cat owner is not as knowledgeable in pet diseases. Horse practice is probably the strangest of all specialties. Backyard horse owners are much like pet owners in that they really know very little about the ailments of their equine.

But those brave new vets who take up racetrack practice or a horse show specialty face a mysterious clientele. In addition to the extensive list of legitimate problems and treatments encountered, they must also deal with a blithering array of mythical ailments and mystical treatments. Superstition, patent medicine and secret ingredients abound in the horse world.

So all I can ask is, when you have a "wet behind the ears" graduate veterinarian out to your place, cut 'em a little slack. Who knows – with your help they might amount to somethin' some day.

Baxter Black: The Hunter’s Son

This is the poem of the hunter's son as he tracks the woods alone

And the beaver's revenge when he seeks to avenge the hunter's gauntlet thrown

By choosing to pair with a grizzly bear, big, nasty and fully grown.

He was raised in the woods and meadow where ice and forest collide

In the Peace River reach where fathers still teach their sons how to hunt and provide

Young Scott was in search of the beaver. The country was thick with'em then.

Traps were his love but he wasn't above a rifle shot now and again.

He snuck through the woods like a shadow and stopped just short of a spring.

There on the bank like a person of rank sat Oscar, the Beaver King

He was big as a Yellowknife huskie and humming a Rachmaninov

Scott froze in his tracks, Oscar never looked back till he heard the safety click off.

Then he rolled like a log to the water. The bullet sang just by his ear

Though caught unaware he escaped by a hair and Scott saw the King disappear

Scott cursed his bad luck 'cause ol' Oscar had beaten him just like before

So he turned on the trail, like a dog tuckin' tail and headed back home sad and sore.

But his path was impeded in progress by a bear with a griz pedigree.

He was hungry and large, so when he made a charge Scott climbed up a poplar tree.

He clum till the tree started bendin', twenty feet up off the ground

He sat crotch while the bear carved a notch each time that he circled around.

He climbed within inches of Scotty and scared the bee jee outta him

He snorted and growled and about disemboweled the poplar tree, root to limb

But he finally backed off, reconsidered, like only a grizzly bear could

He shook a big paw and bid au revoir, then disappeared into the wood.

Though shaken, Scott felt he had triumphed, there from his perch in the bleachers.

The vast human brain will always remain the master of God's lesser creatures.

But the sight he beheld left him chastened, outwitted by over-achievers.

The bear reappeared, new help commandeered, with Oscar, the King of the Beavers.

Baxter Black: Pull My Finger

ATTN: This is addressed to teenagers, tuba players and grown-ups in the news media who have gotten great giggles out of the story that cow flatulence is a danger to mankind!

It can be expected from those that have the attention span of a Bartlett pear, but tuba players should know better.

Cows do not flatulate.

Allow me to give you a lesson in bovine physiology. Cows are herbivores, vegetarians. They live on grass. Cows are big. 1,000 lbs. Cows eat a lot of grass. They have four stomachs, the biggest is the rumen. The rumen's job is to prepare grass and roughage to make it digestible by the other stomachs and the alimentary track. This is done by bacterial digestion and fermentation, and physical maceration.

Now, cows lead a fairly boring life. They graze and chew their cud. The cud is a baseball-size wad of chewed, swallowed, re-chewed, regurgitated, chewed and swallowed grass, ad infinitum. This cud is part of a magnificent digestive mechanism that allows cows and other ruminants to utilize fibrous vegetative material that is otherwise completely indigestible by simple-stomached animals like…people. For instance, cows can derive nutritional benefit from lettuce! Who'd a thunk it!

People eat lettuce because it is the next best thing to eating nothing. If you wanna lose weight, the best way is to eat…(?). No, not lettuce, Nothing! But nobody wants to eat nothing, so they eat lettuce, which is the next best thing.

This whole issue involves Greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. There are three; carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

METHANE comes from fermentation of organic breakdowns; compost in your flower garden, garbage dumps, rice paddies, wetlands, domestic and wild ruminants, and alcoholic beverages…agriculture produces 5.8% of all Greenhouse gasses.

CARBON DIOXIDE comes from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, their energy production, transportation and use. CO2 accounts for 86.3% of all Greenhouse gasses. Transportation (cars and trucks) amount to 33% of all fossil fuels used.

What do we do with all this information? Eliminate non-essential herbivores? Starting with elephants, buffalo, goats, horses, prairie dogs and termites. Next they begin to regulate our diet; no sugar, no organic food (too inefficient) and how about trees? They absorb CO2 and produce Oxygen but what if we have too many trees and they won't let you cut them down? I can picture an army of bureaucrats regulating the use of gasoline, diesel, electricity, construction…wait a minute! They already do!

Back to Cow "Flatulations"; the methane that cows emit comes directly from the rumen. They belch it up. Not as funny, but at least now you know.

In the U.S., 30 million cows emit more methane than all the cars. 125 million cars produce more total Greenhouse gasses than cows. Which is worse for our environment? Hard to say which is more essential; agriculture or transportation? How long can you live without driving?

Baxter Black: Graftin’ Calves

I was ugly when I was born. How ugly were you? I was so ugly they had to tie my mother's legs together so I could nurse! If you've ever grafted a calf you know just what I'm talkin' about.

Graftin' calves. An unnatural act. One of the more frustrating parts of calvin' season. You've got a good (or not so good) heifer who lost her calf to calvin' difficulty, scours, deep water, snow drifts, tractor tires, excitement, BVD or any of a million or two reasons that we could all by name.

You figger to graft another calf in its place from one of your many sources: a twin, a dried up heifer, the sale barn, the local dairy, Walmart or one of those late night television commercials that offers a four-legged lizard to Guy-Ko you, tape you can plug your septic tank with, or the pillow man to personally come to your home to fluff you up!

I imagine since the time of Noah's Livestock Auction and Commission Company, peddlers have been offering magical solutions that you can sprinkle on the calf and the heifer's nose to mask the scent, different formulae abound; musk from a rutting beaver, compost drops, eucalyptus oil, limburger lotion or grizzly after shave. They all have one thing in common: they smell like two dead carp left in a Hefty trash bag on a warm Phoenix afternoon.

I've tried rubbing the graft with the new mother's afterbirth. I tried the ol' sheepherder trick of skinnin' the dead calf and tyin his hide around the new one. I admit that trick always makes me feel sorry for both calves. It certainly couldn't be too comfortable, not to mention it would take both of 'em right off the best dressed list!

My most effective method involved cow psychology. That's right . . . SHOVEL TRAINING! Hobble the heifer, pen her and the graft calf up for a few days and do it the hard way. First you stand in the pen with them and encourage the calf to suck. He tries, she kicks, you konk her with the shovel. On the poll is a good a place as any.

Eventually she will stand still and let him nurse. For the next few days you lean over the gate and wave the shovel when you want him to suck. Usually the heifer gives up and finally you can turn'em both out.

I don't know how well this method works on mules, kangaroos or Holsteins but I'd recommend it fer yer good ol' run of the mill bally.

Baxter Black: Hung Up In The Fence

She was a pretty cow. A big polled Hereford but she was only half bagged up. So they sorted her off. These were pretty rangy cows and when they got separated from the big bunch they got nervous. Rex and Clair dropped her over into the "questionable" pen to run her though the chute. Rex wanted to check her bag.

The big cow had fire in her eyes when she saw Rex. She charged him! He raced to the fence. Clair stepped in front of the one-cow stampede and swung at her with a broken plastic whip. She changed directions, missed him by a hare's breath and cleared the fence herself!

I say 'cleared the fence'. I mean 'almost cleared the fence'. Rex was proud of his new fence. He built it of Red Brand welded wire 4 x 6 foot panels and cedar posts. He ran a line of treated 2 x 8's around the top. The cow in question drove a hind foot through one of the squares in the welded wire panel. She hung up and straddled the fence like a limp cheese stick crawlin' outta the bowl.

"Lemme run and get the bolt cutter, Rex. We can weld it back later."

"No. I wanna check her bag first," he said.

The way the cow was draped over the 2 x 8, her bag was at eye level. Clair could see the look on Rex's face. "Don't do it," she said.

Rex reached out, grabbed the proffered tit and squeezed. A foul smelling clump of cottage cheese hit him square in the face! At the same time he pulled, she made a tremendous effort to escape. She fell back down inside the pen, ripping off the welded wire panel in a shower of staples! She rose with the panel still around her foot.

Wearing her giant snowshoe, she stomped, shuffled and cha-cha'd her way back through the cows in the questionable pen. They spooked and scattered to the four points of the compass, but all unerringly, managed to find the new gap in the fence and join the rest of the herd.

All escaped except the cow with the fly swatter foot. Clair roped her and held her down long enough for Rex to cut the panel off with the bolt cutters. They let'er up and she followed the other cows.

Rex wiped a clod of curd off the bill of his cap. "Well," he said philosophically. "At least we know."

Baxter Black: A Minority Needs Help

What do cable TV and "Where your food comes from" have in common?

ANSWER: Television ag programming is beneficial, educational to the curious public people who eat food, and the food producers that provide the food they eat.

Interesting surveys: population of U.S. 327 million people that eat,

3.2 million is the number of food producers that feed them.

How do the 327 billion who eat communicate with the 3.2 million?

Television/internet is the biggest communicator in the country…on Earth.

Seventy-nine percent have a television, 77 percent communicate over internet.

National television is owned by a handful of merging moguls like Time Warner, Verizon FiOS, ComCast and other voracious traders who are deliberately together trying to eliminate the miniscule Ag/Rural networks that are left in the U.S., which includes RFDtv. Even the big independent ag programs like U.S. Farm Report, Orion Samulson and Superior Livestock use RFDtv to increase their coverage.

What can the 3.2 million Food Producers and those other mammals that want to know Where Food Comes From…do?


"It requires each multichannel video programming distributor with 5,000 or more subscribers shall reserve 1 percent of its total bandwidth to distribute to all its subscribers video programming that predominately serves the needs and interests of rural America."

WRITE OR CALL your national politicians to support the act. If your representative gives you the shuffle then call the next day and the next. Surveys show 55 percent of consumers are interested in where their food comes from. If that's you, call.

Inform your politicians of the FCC Diversity Committee that requires 2.5 percent of cable and broadcast operators be dedicated to minorities including: Latino 17 percent of population, Black 12 percent, Asian 4.7 percent and American Indian .7 percent. Ranchers and Farmers of all colors, races and ages make up a mere 2 percent of our entire population. Talk about minority groups!

Why would officers of these mega telecoms that control thousands of 'broadcast bands' deliberately exclude ag/rural networks? ANSWER: They deem that the 2 percent minority of Food Producers are insignificant. Their ignorance of the essentials of life…FOOD WATER AND SHELTER is sad.

Direction from Congress is the only way to recognize that the agriculture networks educate, communicate, entertain and keep this valuable minority informed.

Ring…"Hello? Is this the office of my senator/congressmen? I'm part of the 3.2 million Food Producers that feeds you lunch. Are you familiar with THE RURAL COMMINICATIONS ACT 2018?"

How to find your state senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

How to find your Congressmen: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Baxter Black: I Should’a Brought a Raincoat

As Noah said when he went out on the deck to check the windshield wipers, "I should'a brought a raincoat."

Paul's day started out with a drumroll. Every morning for months as he went into the machine shed he noticed the rusty gate hinge on the door jam. It was shoulder high and stuck out like a rhino horn. 'Could be dangerous,' he often thought.

That morning he was in a hurry and listed just enough to starboard to catch his shirt sleeve on the hinge. It jerked him hard to the right! As he swung around he stepped on the weed hoe. It stood smartly to attention and saluted him across the eyebrow!

He stumbled across the grain room holding his eye and stepped into the cat's dish. It slid out from under him. He did the splits and straddled the door jam into the big shed. Looking up from the floor he noticed his tractor leaning, like it had its foot off the curb. On closer inspection he found the lean was the result of a flat tire.

Back at the house to get a Band Aid he discovered they had no water. The well pump was out. Well houses in this part of Iowa are usually circular, concrete, twelve feet in the ground and have a lip not much above the ground level.

Paul loaded up the dog and went to town for parts. Backing out in front of the hardware store, he stuck his elbow out the open window. The protruding door lock slipped up under his sleeve. When he leaned out looking back he mashed the door lock down and pinched a thumbful of skin! He reacted by stomping the gas and nearly blindsiding pore ol' Bud who was on his way to the sale barn in Moville.

When Paul finally got home he saw that his cows were out. Probably in search of water. With the dog's help he managed to get the migrating cattle back into the barn lot. He headed for the well.

'At least I'll get it fixed before lunch,' he thought as he lifted the plywood cover and descended the ladder into the well. There was just room enough for one man to stand up, what with the pressure tank, the pump and pipes.

He knelt down to check the points and leaned a little to let the noon day sun shine light on the subject. Then he felt a stream of water cascading over his head and down the side of his face. It was warm.

Paul considered turning and shouting up at the dog who was apparently marking the well as his territory, but thought better of it. He leaned as far as he could to avoid the shower, which just allowed the stream to soak his shirt and pant leg.

"Yup," he said, wiping the side of his face, "I should'a brought a raincoat."

Baxter Black: That Time Again

It's fall on the cow outfit.

Time to get out the WD 40 and grease up the handles on the squeeze chute. Maybe find the three or four syringes that work, buy some new gaskets and barrels along with a box of needles. Time to look for the ear tagger, nose tongs and dehorning saw. You could stock up on hot shot batteries and plastic whips and shovel out the chute floor before it freezes.

That'll be the easy part of workin' your cows this fall, the mechanical tasks associated with good management. Yet, laying in wait like the hangover after the night before, is that ominous responsibility that all good cowmen dread… that's right, boys… the open cow.

You know they are in the bunch. And you can bet your hired help, your neighbors and your family will all be lookin' over your shoulder anxious to see your decision. They will be full of advice. But, in the end, whether you keep that open cow or not, will be strictly between you and her.

Say she bangs into the chute. Her teeth are good, she's fat, five years old and just weaned a 550 lb calf. The vet shouts "Open!" The vaccinators are poised waiting for your decision. You rapidly calculate that open cow will bring $$880 at the sale Wednesday.

You dither, remembering her first calf. You had to pull it. It was a cold night in February. The two of you spent four hours in the shed getting' that calf to suck. Once he was goin', she took'im and never looked back! Dang, you hate to see her go. You bite the bullet… "Cull her!" you say, but you can't look her in the eye.

In comes a first calf heifer. Sorta thin, not full grown. She's showin' some potential but when the preg checker calls out "Open!", you realize she won't have a calf next spring. If she settles, she'll wean her second calf 24 months from today. That's a long time to hold your inventory. "Cull'er," you say. Wow! Yer, feelin' like a business man!

In the last chute load, an old red neck mama comes through. You recognize her. When the boy punches her with the hot shot, you wince. Popcorn teeth, hollow flanks and a scruffy tailhead. Her bag hangs like a four dollar drape. She raised a big strappin' calf this year but it took all she had.

She was in the first bunch of heifers you bought when you took over the ranch 12 years ago. She put you over the fence a time or two but now she doesn't seem to care. Too old, too wore out. "Open," comes the intrusion.

The silence is heavy. Your eyes travel down her spine and back to her lifeless eyes. "Run'er one more year!" 'She'll die on this place.' Nobody says a word.

Baxter Black: Lawn Clippings

The first week of August I was haulin' a load of cows to the sale. We hadn't had rain for five weeks and my pasture was pretty sorry. I'd been feedin' hay for two weeks. Along the highway I could see houses on either side. Most had green lawns. It occurred to me 'Somethin' is wrong with this picture!'

Not that I'm against people havin' lawns, or even soakin' them with precious water. But then they mow it. They pick up the clippings. Then they stuff these clippings in a plastic bag and try and hide it somewhere. I could quadruple my cow herd if I could just rent pasture from one residential block and graze their yards. But I know that is not realistic.

Residential yard workers do not think of their lawns as forage. They grow it, mow it, harvest its bounty and add it to a landfill. They think of it more like hair than wheat. But you talk about work! Maybe there are people who look forward to mowin' the lawn; barbers, for instance, or manicurists. And it's not just the weekly horse whippin' of a following a Briggs and Stratton around for half a day, some enthusiastic yarders edge, weed, fertilize, shape, prune, rake, haul and water in never-ending tail chase to create compost!

So, I been thinkin' why not capitalize on all this hand labor. What is grass good for? Cow feed, of course. But it is unlikely that livestock producers could rent 2 AUM's (Animal Units per backyard) or some such. Which means we have to be able to use the grass after it is harvested. Now, any cowman who's tried to dump lawn clippings over the fence knows most cows ignore it unless they're starvin'. But the way cows love silage, maybe we could treat it like a fermented product.

We'd spread the word that fresh clippings would be picked up Saturday and Sunday evenings. Participating Eco-sensitive residential yarders would set their plastic bags out. We'd pick it up, haul it to the dairy or feedlot, add silage preservative and put it in a pit. If it was put up fresh it might hold a worthwhile protein level. Of course, all participating yarders would have to guarantee that their lawn was organic; herbicide and pesticide-free.

And it would help our image. It would have tremendously politically correct implications. Urban residents would become more sympathetic to livestock operations in their area. They'd be recycling and saving precious water. It would give meaning to an otherwise strictly cosmetic use of natural resources. Sort of like using a Picasso painting to cover a water stain on the wallpaper.

And if it works we can get a grant to research recycling old hair and toenails. After all, look at marshmallows. I think they're made of horse's hooves.

Baxter Black: Labor Day on the Farm

Labor Day was created by Unions to recognize the American Worker. It did not include ranching and farming; if they did, it would destroy the ability of a farmer to get a loan. If a farmer included the cost of his daily labor on a financial statement, no banker could find a way to show a profit. But things have changed. 'Haying' used to be a full time job for teens in the summer. Tossing bales onto a flat-bed, stacking them on the truck, hauling them back to the hay yard or the barn, throwing bales off and restacking them. It was always hot, sticky, scratchy, sweaty and hard. But if you were on the football team in high school you'd finish the last cutting with money in the bank and muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Oh, and the suntan was free.

Fast forward to today. Teenagers in farm communities now have to go to the gym all summer to get in shape. Because one farmer with a round baler, a self-propelled inline bale wrapper, and a tractor with a bale spear can do the work of full teenage hayin' crew in half the time. One of the most labor-intensive chores on the ranch is building fence. I worked for a big outfit that had several large ranches with miles of fence. We had a four-man crew. They would set the corners and the brace posts with posthole diggers and tamping bars. The roll of barbwire would be strung out, carried by two men often walking for miles when the country was too rough to drive along the fence line. Then the wire was stretched and the steel posts were driven in the ground with 15-pound post pounder every 20 or so feet. Stays and clips were spun on to finish. Sometimes they could do a mile a day.

Today we have a tractor with a posthole digger on the three-point hitch and a post pounder (or pusher in places where it rains). For those who still want to "rough it" there is the hand-held hydraulic post driver.

How about the old days of chopping weeds in the row crops? I remember the Bracero Program along the Mexican border where workers legally came into the U.S. to chop weeds, hand plant and harvest crops. The U.S. government stopped the program because it was supposedly taking work from able-bodied Americans. The very next year every cotton farmer in the Rio Grande Valley had bought a McCormick cotton picking machine. Now we spray for weeds or use genetically modified crops that resist insects, weeds and disease. When I was a lad we milked one cow. It supplied butter and milk for our family. Most farmers kept 5-10 milk cows. It took an hour or two every morning. It was the longest part of 'doing the chores.' Farmers sold their milk and cream or traded it for goods. Even today in highly automated dairies milking thousands of cows, it is still an intensive, hands-on part of agriculture. The only thing they don't have to do is milk them!

There are many more examples of the amount of 'labor' required in farming and ranching, then and now, but it is that last one that comes to mind. On my wall is a painting of my grandfather walking from the "cooling room" (where the fresh milk was kept in running water to stay cool) carrying a bucket to the pump at the windmill. Then he would walk back and feed the hogs, scatter grain to the chickens, turn the draft horses out, then up to the house for breakfast. If they painted that picture today, he would be on his four-wheeler and probably weighing another 20 pounds! F