by Tammy Taylor
When we’re weaning calves we like to fenceline them when at all possible. This allows mama and baby to see each other and eases their anxiety during the weaning transition. We typically bring the calves into the barn pen where we have pretty heavily-fortified fences to allow the mama and baby to see each other but the fences are strong enough to keep baby separated.
Recently we brought two of our registered Hereford calves into the barn pen to start their weaning process. This heat and drought has taken it’s toll on the mama cows and we needed to go ahead & pull the calves that were old enough to wean to allow the dams to regain their body condition. In the weaning pen we have free-choice hay for the calves and we also supplement them pretty heavily with creep as well, especially during this transition period. We keep a close eye on them when they’re weaning and one Sunday evening we noticed signs of trouble in paradise.
Our pretty girl just didn’t ‘t look right. She was standing with her legs held rigid and the back legs slightly back. Her mid section was expanded and she had all the symptoms of bloat, yet it was more like mucus than foam coming out of her mouth . We jumped into action bringing her into the chute to take a closer look. We were perplexed – it looks like bloat, but what could she bloat on? We’re in yet another drought and there’s precious little actual GREEN in the grass. Hummm… We decided to try to tube her, she was in obvious discomfort. But for some reason we couldn’t get the tube to go through. OK, we’re in over our heads. Although it’s late on a Sunday evening and the emergency vet fee will be very high, this girl can’t wait. A call was placed to our vet’s emergency number and although he was two hours away in no time he was speeding toward our ranch. When he arrived he agreed that she did indeed look bloated. He tried to tube her and was also unsuccessful in getting the tube through.
Upon further exploration he discovered that she had a blockage in her throat, and it felt like a small ball. Acting quickly he gave her a shot of a medication to make her throat muscles relax and after waiting the required amount of time for the meds to kick in he once again tried to tube her, this time successfully pushing the blockage down & the tube hit it’s target. She was bloated so he gave her a preventative mixture to keep her from bloating further and also a shot to help repair her irritated throat. We discovered that due to the drought the horse apples (from Bois D’Arc trees) were much smaller than usual and were dropping prematurely from the trees. Although it’s not unusual for us to see cattle munching on a horse apple from time to time, this was new! Apparently because of the small size of the horse apples this year she was able to get it down into her throat where it lodged. Thank goodness for a knowledgeable vet that gave up time on his Sunday evening to come to our ranch & save our girl. He said she would have been gone if we had waited until morning.
It’s important as a rancher to pay careful attention to your animals & to be able to step in and take care of them medically when necessary, but equally important to know when treatment is over your level of ability and call in the big guns. There’s never a dull moment on the ranch!
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