September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Our on-farm vet

By Jacqui Davison- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

'Where there is livestock, there is also dead stock.' It's a quote not overrated in the farming community. It is really a fact of farm life. You learn this at a very young age on any farm, and ours is definitely no exception. With my dad being a vet, I was always quite sure he could and should save any animal that was important to me. I remember one of my first Jersey calves getting a miserable case of the scours. Butterscotch was outside in a water tank (not really sure why-but that's the memory) and so terribly ill she could hardly move. I was all of eleven years old and positive that my dad, with all his veterinary skills, could save her. No such luck. He tried, but to no avail, that little body just couldn't do it. I vaguely remember being mad at him for his lack of effort. The vet should know how to save every special animal. Over the years, I have matured in this idea, and now take comfort in knowing that if he can't save them, at least he tries, and when and if they do die, he can tell us why immediately, not to mention it's handy having a veterinarian on the farm for those near death experiences.
Dad is trained as a large animal veterinarian, but when you are on a farm, there is a token amount of small animals that no doubt need emergency veterinary attention. Kittens with their eyes glued shut? Give them mastitis tubes in their eyes and mouth. Sick sheep? Well, a sick sheep is usually a dead sheep, but try some of this. Donkey acting funny? Give her some Kaopectate (cow grade Pepto-bismal) to make her poop. Our dear Maggie was a fan of biting cows if she thought they were going to hurt someone, and one time I swung the cane back to tap her and stop her, so I could deal with the cow. The swing had more umpf behind it than I realized, and I knocked her out. A screaming phone call to Dad brought him running with some medicine, I had made her brain start to swell up, but within minutes she was up and fine again. Bull wasn't a big fan of Bessie when we got her as a puppy, and he made this fact known more than once when she got too close to him in the presence of food. Dad has stitched up her face at least twice, and yesterday it was quite the production to hold the chubby thing still, so he could stitch up her leg. It wasn't a Bull inflicted wound. We don't know what happened, but good thing we had an on farm vet. My sewing skills are pretty good, but I've yet to try my hand at sewing skin together, though I know that day will come when my on farm vet may not be on farm, and I just might have to try it myself.
I think part of the reason that no one in our family has a weak stomach is because we have grown up assisting with twisted stomach surgeries, and helping dad post cows and calves. I have a picture in one of my cookbooks drawn by seven year old me depicting me helping dad with a DA surgery. My children are no different, already learning to hold the ends of the plastic sleeve so Grandpa can cut the tips off, hold the suture container down so he can pull out the right amount, and listen to the gas bubbles that come out the cow's stomach. It fascinates them as much as it intrigued us when we were little. They also like to be right there when he is posting a cow. What a biology lesson, learning what the lungs are, the heart, the intestines, and what colors they are supposed to be. My dad will constantly explain things as he goes, pointing parts out, talking about why she probably died, and showing things to Ira and Dane. I observed this being played out one day while I was working on the cow computer.
"Do you see this right here? It's her heart, that's why she died." Dane exclaimed as they were dissecting a cardboard box with screwdrivers.
"Dane, Dane, do you see the color in here? That's what was making her sick. We have to get the calf out." Ira very adamantly explains. I know they are learning about life and death. They are also learning that sometimes we have to shoot a cow that went down unexpectedly, but we will use her meat. She helped us out by making milk, and now she will help us out by feeding lots of people.
Last week, we had a rough week around the farm, even our vet was befuddled. The craziest death experience was the nice looking cow I brought in to check the status of her calving and found a twisted uterus. Good thing my vet was just steps away. Dad reached in and shook his head, yes, a torsion it was. After the chains were attached on the legs of the first calf, some twisting and turning was involved to get the uterus untwisted so the calf could come out easily. A backwards, live bull, followed minutes later by his not so live heifer twin. As we worked to turn the cow out of the stall to help her get up easier, she appeared dead. We hurriedly ran to start an IV of calcium thinking she had a bad case of milk fever. Half a bottle in, she was most definitely dead. When we got her outside and opened her up to determine the cause of death, blood poured out. Dad said sometimes when the uterus is twisted, the main artery running through it becomes twisted as well, and if it develops a hole, it won't leak until it is untwisted again.
Life and death are all a part of living on the farm, sometimes seeing both in a matter of minutes. We are lucky we have a vet on the farm for all of those cases, good, bad, and otherwise. With him right there, there is always the chance even the worst ones can be saved, and if not, at least we have immediate answers to probing questions.
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