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The romantic cowboy life

For the March 20, 2010 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Several years ago when youngest son Colin was about eight or nine, we were in the midst of a normal calving season. You know, muddy, tired, sometimes cold, but always interesting. Every day after school, Colin saddled his horse and he and I would go check pairs, gather springers and feed hay.

I fed cake every morning after turning out the springers and tagging the new calves, and that morning, I’d noticed that a cow that had calved the day before hadn’t cleaned yet. (For the uninitiated, that means she had a retained placenta.) She and her new baby were still out in the calving pasture because he was too fresh to travel the night before.

For those of you that aren’t in this line of work, a retained placenta (afterbirth) doesn’t get nicer the longer it drags around behind the cow. She poops on it, piddles on it, drags it through the mud and water, and applies the normal post-partum discharge. On top of this, that afterbirth develops a personality all it’s own and begins attracting buzzards and flies. Nasty stuff. The worst part is, though, that it causes the cow to get an infection, which, though it usually doesn’t make her terribly sick, will prevent her from breeding back on time, which is a job requirement.

So obviously, the situation had to be addressed. Lucky me. We got her in the corral without stirring her up too much, which was important because she was kind of an old renegade. We eased her away from her baby and into the alley. I had Colin hold her calf in front of the head-catch for bait and she managed to go into the chute without too much trouble. We confined the calf there by her head so she didn’t have to worry about him, and I started in to treat the problem. I gave her a shot for the infection and one to help the placenta release, and I moved to the business end of the situation.

I stepped into the squeeze chute behind her, and with an ob-sleeve on up to my shoulder, I slid my lubricated hand and arm into the dark, secret place that houses baby calves and smelly placentas. I worked some more of the placenta over the pelvic wall to help it gently pull itself loose by it’s own weight.

Next, I needed to place uterine boluses in each horn of her uterus. She was a big cow, so by weight, I decided to put four in each side. That would require two boluses at a time being put in place, thus four more trips in and out of the cow’s delicate parts.

I was taking my time and being gentle (women are very sympathetic to such issues) and had half the boluses inside. Due to her size, to reach the uterine horns meant that I was going in clear to my armpit, therefore I was standing right up against her hind end.

During all this, Colin was standing on the outside of the chute, holding her tail over the top of a bar to keep it out of the way and handing me the boluses with his other hand. This was a training session, so I was explaining it all to him as I worked. I was just withdrawing my arm for more boluses when the dear old cow humped up and hosed me down. I was standing directly in the line of the torrent, so was wet from collarbone to boot tops. Because my arm was in the way, it sprayed around quite a bit, so, my face and neck received a liberal splatter as well. It appeared, by volume, that she hadn’t taken a leak for days.

But, this wasn’t my first rodeo, as they say, so I just kept working. Colin looked pretty serious about the situation and was quiet for a bit. Then, with the look that children wear when they really want the truth, he asked, “Mom… did you always want to be a cowboy?”

I didn’t answer, but finished the job at hand, peeled off the sleeve and stepped out of the chute. After I shut the side gate, I looked him in the eye and answered, “Yes, Honey, it’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Several years ago when youngest son Colin was about eight or nine, we were in the midst of a normal calving season. You know, muddy, tired, sometimes cold, but always interesting. Every day after school, Colin saddled his horse and he and I would go check pairs, gather springers and feed hay.

I fed cake every morning after turning out the springers and tagging the new calves, and that morning, I’d noticed that a cow that had calved the day before hadn’t cleaned yet. (For the uninitiated, that means she had a retained placenta.) She and her new baby were still out in the calving pasture because he was too fresh to travel the night before.

For those of you that aren’t in this line of work, a retained placenta (afterbirth) doesn’t get nicer the longer it drags around behind the cow. She poops on it, piddles on it, drags it through the mud and water, and applies the normal post-partum discharge. On top of this, that afterbirth develops a personality all it’s own and begins attracting buzzards and flies. Nasty stuff. The worst part is, though, that it causes the cow to get an infection, which, though it usually doesn’t make her terribly sick, will prevent her from breeding back on time, which is a job requirement.

So obviously, the situation had to be addressed. Lucky me. We got her in the corral without stirring her up too much, which was important because she was kind of an old renegade. We eased her away from her baby and into the alley. I had Colin hold her calf in front of the head-catch for bait and she managed to go into the chute without too much trouble. We confined the calf there by her head so she didn’t have to worry about him, and I started in to treat the problem. I gave her a shot for the infection and one to help the placenta release, and I moved to the business end of the situation.

I stepped into the squeeze chute behind her, and with an ob-sleeve on up to my shoulder, I slid my lubricated hand and arm into the dark, secret place that houses baby calves and smelly placentas. I worked some more of the placenta over the pelvic wall to help it gently pull itself loose by it’s own weight.

Next, I needed to place uterine boluses in each horn of her uterus. She was a big cow, so by weight, I decided to put four in each side. That would require two boluses at a time being put in place, thus four more trips in and out of the cow’s delicate parts.

I was taking my time and being gentle (women are very sympathetic to such issues) and had half the boluses inside. Due to her size, to reach the uterine horns meant that I was going in clear to my armpit, therefore I was standing right up against her hind end.

During all this, Colin was standing on the outside of the chute, holding her tail over the top of a bar to keep it out of the way and handing me the boluses with his other hand. This was a training session, so I was explaining it all to him as I worked. I was just withdrawing my arm for more boluses when the dear old cow humped up and hosed me down. I was standing directly in the line of the torrent, so was wet from collarbone to boot tops. Because my arm was in the way, it sprayed around quite a bit, so, my face and neck received a liberal splatter as well. It appeared, by volume, that she hadn’t taken a leak for days.

But, this wasn’t my first rodeo, as they say, so I just kept working. Colin looked pretty serious about the situation and was quiet for a bit. Then, with the look that children wear when they really want the truth, he asked, “Mom… did you always want to be a cowboy?”

I didn’t answer, but finished the job at hand, peeled off the sleeve and stepped out of the chute. After I shut the side gate, I looked him in the eye and answered, “Yes, Honey, it’s all I ever wanted to do.”


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