In the old days, veterinarians dealt with a lot of emergencies on dairy farms. Today this is much less the case. It is not that cows and calves do not have emergencies, but that today’s farmers handle most themselves. Farmers need the proper tools, so let us talk about what should go into a proper bovine emergency first aid and emergency kit.
    Large animal epinephrine. Large animal epinephrine has a concentration of 1 mg per ml. The label might instead say 1:1,000. Small animal or human epinephrine has a concentration of 0.1 mg per ml or might say 1:10,000. Epinephrine must be protected from light to prevent deterioration, so store it in the dark. Epinephrine is useful for anaphylactic reactions, most typically seen after injection of a vaccine or antibiotic, for example. It can also be helpful for relaxation of the uterus for dystocia to gain more room within the uterus to correct fetal malposition or malpresentation.
    Flunixin. This is also useful for reactions, especially the anaphylactoid type. These often show up after a vaccination but may occur up to 24 hours later instead of within minutes after an injection.
    Steroid hormones. Dexamethasone and isoflupredone (PreDef) are the typical versions used in bovine practice. They can also be given for anaphylactic and anaphylactoid reactions.
    Calcium borogluconate. Even with all our new approaches to controlling milk fever we still expect 1-2 percent of fresh cows to succumb to this condition. Calcium borogluconate is the preferred first treatment. Combination products with dextrose, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium will also work, but they usually contain less calcium, woefully inadequate amounts of potassium, a type of phosphorous that is mostly impossible for the cow to absorb, and dextrose, which most cows already have very high levels of in their blood if down with milk fever. These types of products may be better used as a repeat treatment for down cows, mostly because of their magnesium content.
    A clean IV simplex and some unopened 2-inch or longer 14 gauge needles. There is no reason to subject cows to injections with dull, reusable IV needles. Discard the needles after use. The simplex can be reused and is best kept clean and dry, and can be submerged in a disinfectant solution before use. A small supply of other syringes and needles should be stored in the first aid kit as well.
    A large hemostatic forceps. Get a large one; preferably 8 inches or longer. Most likely your veterinarian can find one. These are useful to clamp on bleeding vessels. The large size is best for clamping vaginal bleeders that may occur after dystocia. These are also useful for clamping bleeding milk veins. There are a variety of other clamps that can work for milk veins, clipboard clamps, hobby and woodworking clamps, but they do not work well for vaginal bleeders.
    A 15 mg package of Celox, or similar, hemostatic granules. One package applied to a bleeding fore udder sore with pressure and a bandage can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Note that this is not the same as the old hemostatic powder that Dr. Herriot may have applied when dehorning large beasts. This stuff is much more effective.
    A roll of cotton, or similar large bandage, or some clean towels that can be fashioned into a pressure bandage to be applied to a limb.
    Sterile gauze pads. These can be individually wrapped or purchased in bulk. If using bulk, be sure to close the bag after opening and put inside a bigger, sealable plastic bag.
    Four-inch VetWrap or Elasticon (four rolls) tape or similar. This is for bandaging, usually with gauze pads and either cotton or towels underneath.
    One roll of 1-inch medical tape. This is often used over VetWrap.
    A topical antibacterial solution, paste or spray. This is useful for cuts and abrasions.
    Liquid soap. A surgical scrub like Betadyne is preferred, but any liquid soap will work to clean a wound or prolapsed uterus in a pinch.
    Topical fly spray. During warm months flies can be relentless and can cause significant pain when attacking wounds.
    Cow hobbles. Unfortunately dairy cows are prone to injury, and doing the splits is not uncommon. Velcro backed hobbles are inexpensive and simple to use. They can also be useful to keep from getting kicked by an ornery cow when working around the back end or udder.
    Calf leg splints. These are helpful for correcting contracted tendons in newborns but also can be used to splint a broken leg along with a bandage in a new born calf.
    OB equipment. A functional fetal extractor, OB chains and handles and at least a gallon of lube should be on hand at all times.
    And, of course: Duct tape just because.
    There are other things some might consider to be included, but this is most of the really important items. As always, consult your herd veterinarian for usage instructions and other input. Farmers really can be the mother of invention when necessary; however, having the right tools at hand makes the job easier and may produce better results.
    Bennett is one of four dairy veterinarians at Northern Valley Dairy Production Medicine Center in Plainview, Minn. He also consults on dairy farms in other states. He and his wife, Pam, have four children. Jim can be reached at with comments or questions.