Tag Archives: vet

What on earth…..

What on earth is going on… this is a really shocking story from BBC Wales.

Click here to read about the slaughter of horned cows.

It is also reported here in the Daily Mail

We are not in a position to comment much except we are very shocked.

However, I should point out many farmers work with horned cattle safely on a daily basis and shooting loose cattle is very, very dangerous as the likelihood of stray bullets and an unclean kill requiring several shots and much suffering from the animal as well as the onlookers is incredibly high.

Only once or twice in a long lifetime of livestock farming have I seen a loose animal shot out of total necessity because it was maddened and very distressed.  And this was only after we had tried sedation and the vet first. It is totally different from destroying an animal which is contained and I feel it is a very irresponsible action to take.

One wonders what the risk assessment for this terrible action was?

Whatever the real problem was, and they may be more to it, we are all completely outraged and this was not the way to solve it.



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they shoot cows don’t they?

Not all of farming with animals is fun, sometimes it is tragic and very sad.

Recently we were called out to assess a poorly cow out in the field, all we knew was that she was lying down. This is known as a ‘downer’ cow. When we reached her we could see that she was in great pain and distress and immediately called on our many years of observation and experience to try to determine the cause of her troubles and if we should try to move her, or send for the vet.

In less than a minute we noted that she was in pain, and dehydrated – the latter possibly from being unable to get up to seek water. She was lying on her left side, and on close examination we could see that her right pelvic joint looked normal and the left one did not, in fact it looked very strange indeed, with only a very sharp and pointed piece of bone sticking up and there was nothing at all where the top of the femur should have been. We knew straightaway not to move her and summoned the vet, who as it happened was only half an hour away. Mobile phones make this so much easier and quicker. We also fetched her some water, which she drank, and we wafted the flies away from her eyes and stroked her to keep her calm as we waited for expert medical help.

The vet agreed that the pelvis looked horribly wrong and only under his strict instructions was she was moved by four men onto her right side in order for him to examine the pelvis internally. The diagnosis was that she had either a dislocated or broken pelvis and she was immediately and humanely destroyed.

The cow’s name was  Elderflower and she was six years old and due to calve next month. Tears pricked my eyes, but I had to appear resolute, that is the nature of farming, but sometimes the reality gets to one and it got to me that day, and I learned after we  got home that I was not the only one.

Slips, trips and broken hips is a health department campaign to prevent falls in the elderly, unfortunately there was nothing we could have done to help Elderflower. We tracked back through the grass trails she had made while trying to get up. We found whereabouts on the chalky  hill where she had slipped coming down a steeper part, caught her foot, tripped and gone down with this traumatic injury.

An injury like this in the field is a very rare occurrence, but a very sad one, we were pleased to be able to help her so quickly, and also that we knew what was wrong. The loss of her calf as well was hard to bear, but the vet assured us that in the womb the calf is unconscious, and it was too soon to try a caesarean, which actually would have provoked further suffering for the cow. There is an old saying in farming:  “the first loss is the least loss” and in this case it was true.


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sloe beef

We sent a bullock away this morning to the abattoir, sold to the local butcher, and on the way back to the field the remaining beef cattle stopped and gorged themselves on sloe berries. It was really hard to persuade them to move the final 20 yards to the field.

It sounds lovely, the cattle foraging on autumn berries, however as sloes grow on blackthorn there is a darker side to this tale. If you look carefully in the picture it is possible to see the blackthorns sticking out amongst the berries.

Berries and thorns

Many thanks to http://www.englishcountrywalks.com for their excellent photograph which illustrates today’s blog.

Two years ago, over a period of two months, we had three cattle go down with a very rare illness – woodentongue. It is easily treated with antibiotics and caused when a particular strain of bacterium enters the mouth causing the tongue to swell and harden just like wood. If affected, the cattle are in great pain, have difficulty eating and drinking, and lose condition rapidly.  If not spotted quickly it can easily become fatal.

I was lucky in a way as I had come across it once before. When the second and third cases appeared, a few days apart, about six weeks after the first case, I did contact the vet and we agreed he should come if we had a fourth case, as this was right at the heart of the bluetongue epidemic.

The vet said how rare woodentongue was and he acknowledged and accepted that I had both seen and treated it once before.  The administration of 5 days of antibiotics did the trick, and now we must be extra vigilant watching this batch of almost finished cattle carefully and look out for any drooling or dribbling which are the first signs of trouble.

Last time we identified the cause to a particularly prickly hedge in a different field and we moved the cattle. It will be a pity if any of them have pricked their tongues this morning as they are a good crop of cattle should all be ready and away by Christmas.

Farmers are skilled in animal husbandry and often have years of experience in treating and diagnosing ailments and illnesses.  It is for this reason that this article makes good reading. There has been some suggestion that farmers be downgraded to members of the public when it comes to advertising and antibiotics.

We do use antibiotics, but only when absolutely necessary, as in the cases described above, and always discuss veterinary matters with our excellent vet. He then helps us to decide what medicines to keep on the farm, however it is helpful for us as professional livestock keepers to have additional facts available from the companies and reps which help us to ask more questions when talking to the vet.

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horsey people

What is it with horsey people?

I have recently shaken hands on a deal to buy a new steed, paid a cash deposit of 4%, and summoned the vet to check the animal over. The night before the vet was due, a message was left on my phone to say we are now not selling! I am amazed in these difficult financial times, with horses slow to sell and a severe shortage of hay, and I was led to believe a new pony was waiting in the wings.

I now await the return of my deposit. Watch this space.

Edit: A cheque has arrived and been paid straight into the bank….. I will check the balance in a few days

2nd Edit: Thankfully the cheque cleared, and I have now found another possible pony from a reputable home, and will be booking the vet. The funny thing is that we do think this gelding will be even better than the original one and is cheaper. Funny how these things happen although it doesn’t always seem like it at the time.

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unexpected consequences

Everything is happening today: silage making in big bales, combining previously swathed oil seed rape [ canola], and then the vet was required.

A pig was ill and not responding to the treatment we gave her, the milking cow had a discharge from her rear end that needed investigating, and a boar needed his feet trimming.

The first two were straightforward, the vet diagnosed metritis – infection of the womb – and has changed the antibiotic to a stronger one than the one we gave last night. We have also given something to reduce fever and make her feel better, the piggy equivalent of ibuprofen. The pig only farrowed on Monday night, and we thought she’d passed all the afterbirth, so this infection has struck very quick. The sow will not even eat fresh carrot tops from the garden and this particular pig is not known for her fastidiousness! Still hopefully by tomorrow she will have turned the corner and do her 8 piglets well.

Following internal examination the cow was deemed to be ok , with a normal if slightly heavy discharge following parturition [ birth] 11 days ago. A good result.

The boar was a completely different matter. The vet sedated him on arrival, so the drug would have time to work while we did the other jobs. He was a bit sleepy but not out cold.  Stressnil was used. Jethro tickled the pig behind his ear until he lay down, then he rubbed the boars tummy while the vet started to trim the feet. All went well for a while then the boar suddenly became very lively and all at once it dawned on us that he was actually extremely aroused and as he weighs in excess of 380kg this could be somewhat dangerous. After the boar made several clear advances towards Jethro we all had to dash for the exit, however the vet and I were so convulsed with laughter that we escaped and left all the equipment in the pen. We eventually bribed the boar away from the box with food to retrieve the instruments and had to decide to call it a day.

Methinks Jethro will never quite live this one down!

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boots and balls

The vet is here today, castrating bull calves to turn them into steers for fattening. None of this year’s crop of male calves are good enough to leave entire to grow on for a pedigree bull. This annual task was supposed to happen 2 weeks ago but the original visit ended in disaster on a previously icy morning with the vet thankfully ok, but the practice car in pieces, after a close encounter with black ice.

The sheepdogs have just been given their annual booster vaccination as our farm collies are not regularly taken to the vet’s surgery. In order to get an experienced large animal vet the surgery we use is a good way from here, and the farm dogs are so unused to civilisation that sitting in the waiting room is something we avoid unelss it is an emergency. Firstly, they are always very muddy which is not good for the car on the way there or the waiting room floor and leaves an emabarrasing trail of mud and sometimes muck.  Secondly, they either try to round everything up in the waiting room or in the case of our old girl pick a fight with the nearest dog to her. We worked out years ago that it is much better to get their jabs done in conjunction with a farm visit. Our oldest faithful collie who will be 14 years old later this year has today been diagnosed with a grade II heart murmur.  She is already retired from sheep work and yet is still active enough to chase car wheels. Until today we always thought she’d eventually kill herself under a vehicle, as we have never been able to cure her off the habit and as she ages the habit unfortunately worsens.  Today it seems as if nature may eventually intervene. The advice is to pass the stethoscope under her ribs every time we have a one of the vet’s out for something else and that way we can monitor if she is worsening, even if there are no obvious symptoms.  Certainly she shows no signs of ailing even after a good walk. The vet also microchipped the newer and younger collie in case she ever goes missing.

We long for spring. We awoke to yet more snow today, and there is no sign of the grass growing yet. We are still feeding all the outside stock and the heavy workload remains relentless.

Swift has gone away this week on a short working holiday in order I hope to come back ready for farmwork once I am sound enough on my ankle. He had not left his field in over 9 weeks except to have his feet trimmed, and as I am not yet 100% fit [currently around 80% is my guess] we decided this was the best way to get normal service going again.  I could tell he was becoming bored, and yet I believe the rest has done him good too. He has settled well in his new temporary home, the first email said that on his first ride out he coped with builders, electric drills and barking dogs, mnnn that’s sounds just like my little horse, which is why I chose him in the first place. I  keep being asked how I found him, he is collecting quite a fan club. Or perhaps he chose me? Amazingly, I was the first to see him on the internet, first to ring up, first to view and ride and made an offer on the spot. Collected him 2 days later.

I am off to buy some boots later today from a local stockist, where I can actually try them on, which are good for riding in with a recovering ankle. I hope to start riding a friend’s pony from next week to see how it is and work my way back to normal fitness, but without the hassle of starting a youngster [however good he may seem] off again.

Roll on spring, we need some sunshine to blow away the last of our lingering winter blues.


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itchy and scratchy

Animals! The wordly wise know very well never to work with animals.. but we are somewhat stuck with hundreds of them.

The latest  problem is the young sow, no use to us for breeding anymore and shortly destined for sausages has gone down with lice or mites just a few days before she was due to be sent away.  

This is a big problem. We cannot give her the usual veterinary treatment for external and internal parasites as there is a 28 day minimum meat withdrawal on this stuff. [We always go well over the minimum]. She must go this week as we need the sausages for a market later in the month.

We have consulted with our vet and collected from the vet’s an organic herbal powder  [similar to this] with which to anoint her with. There is no withdrawal period on this as it is made with natural products and it should help considerably. The only problem is we will need to use a whole lot of this powder to take effect and will have to don goggles and face masks in order not to suffocate ourselves in the process. The pig as you can imagine will not like this particularly and not stay still, so I expect a complete whiteout, or a re-run of the black and white minstrel show, but much more pungent. At least we shouldn’t catch any bugs.

PS Swift and I had a 15 minute ridden meander in the field today. So far so good.

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