#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things C

C for Cows

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They are curious and will always look at you, which is good for pictures. Photo credit: Esther Armstrong

Back in the old days…

Often in the late afternoon, when it was time to do the milking, I was sent out to find the cows. Sometimes they would be waiting to be let into the barn (depending on how uncomfortable they were, needing to have their udders relieved). But since they had many acres of grassland on which to feed, they were at other times, nowhere to be seen. I would head off, running or on bike, in the direction they had last been seen, opening gates as I went. The cows tend to follow each other in a line, wearing a path about a foot wide, dotted with what we descriptively called cow pies. Being able to yell in a voice that carried, was also helpful. Our cows answered to “Cum boss!” and we always made the “boss” long and loud like a fog horn.

Once I found them, and got their attention, they would stop grazing and start toward the barn. Slowly I would urge them – we were not to make them run. Cows must think, because the thought of going to the barn would sometimes cause them to let down their milk. Nothing looks more counterproductive, not to mention painful, than to see a running cow with a swollen udder flapping between her legs, spraying milk this way and that as she trots. All in all, they liked coming to the barn where they knew they would get food, water and relief.

Our cows were all named, and they all had their own places in the barn. The barn was always prepared beforehand, with stanchions opened and turned the right way, and hay or silage laid out on the floor in the manger area. The automatic watering cups were checked to make sure they were clean and working and full. The smart cows would walk sedately to their place, stick their heads in the stanchion and begin to eat, waiting for us to come and close them in. The smarter cows would quickly stick their heads in a place other than their own, eat a few mouthfuls and then scoot into their place. They aren’t dumb when it comes to food.

Cows are large, warm, smooth haired with long pink tongues and breath that smells like hay, most of the time. They are very curious and will come running to investigate new things that appear in the field.  After being held in the barn over our cold Wisconsin winter, they would be let out in the spring and race around kicking up their heels, which was quite comical because cows are not the most graceful animals. They just aren’t.

Today I was taken back in time, as I once again went looking for the cows. I had a file on my pc, and wanted my favorite cow pictures for this post, because, yes, I had enough of them to have favorites. The cow file was nowhere to be found. This digital age has given them too many pastures in which to hide, except for these few stragglers who have finally heard me yelling “cum boss!”

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These were the only cows I could find. They knew I was taking their picture and would have been on me in a second…

So, who has ever accidentally landed in a cow pie?

A Simple Way to Effectively Ruin Your Vet’s Schedule

One of this days
One of this days “added” patients, up and about after surgery.

Having spent a few days with Jacksonville Equine veterinarian Dr. Dietz, I noticed a trend in her business. It goes something like this:

“Hey doc, while you’re here would you mind doing a Coggins on my horse. I just live next door. It will only take a minute…”

Well, as long as you’re here go ahead and float my horse’s teeth if it needs to be done…”

“As long as we knew you were coming, my sister brought her horses over too. Could you vaccinate them as well…”

“Hey, as long as you’re here, do you have time to castrate a goat, or maybe all three of them?”

Several days with only a few known appointments have turned out to be considerably longer days than expected. Some days this is good. Others, not so much. It can be a scheduling nightmare. However, Dr. J is getting good at upselling her services and rarely turns anyone down. Because farms are often far apart it is much easier to do more work in one location and apologize to the next client for being a bit late, than to come back later. The “while you’re here” conversation usually means a savings of time for her and is welcomed.

My unusual experience on this trip was the procedure on the three goats. I’m not going into details here but in general, she is good with the knife and it didn’t take very long at all. One was awake and walking around by the time we left, the other two were still sleeping off the anesthesia. Goats snore.

No, not dead - just sleeping it off, and snoring.
No, not dead – just sleeping it off, and snoring.

The five days I spent in Jacksonville were sunny and beautifully temperate which is different from our usual rainy weekends there. The farms we visited were green grassed and clean. Our own horses were looking sleek and shiny and their pasture was dry, not a sea of mud. I could imagine it being a good place for Dr. J to live and practice.

A to Z Family Stories: L for Lamb

These stories are part of who we are and I want them recorded. Not all of them are pretty, but that is ok.  This is a collection of family stories that are told repeatedly anytime the Smith clan congregates during a vacation or a holiday.  I’m sure some of them are told more from my perspective than others but I welcome added insight from those involved.

“The farm”, those words will always mean one place to me and my brothers. It was a 320 acre plot in Sawyer County, Wisconsin about 8 miles from the small town of Hayward. My parents moved there shortly after they were married and my father started trying to make a living being a farmer. He tried numerous types of agri-business while we children were young, before he finally gave it up to become an excavator. The northwoods isn’t conducive to most kinds of farming.

One of the first attempts was the raising of sheep. I was too young to remember much of the actual work and this era probably didn’t last very long. What I do remember and what we sometimes talk about is our pet lamb.

There were times when an ewe (mother sheep for you city dwellers) would either die when giving birth or perhaps she would have twins and reject one of them, which would leave a lamb in need of rescue. The lambs were born in spring or early summer – and you know, lambs are really cute when they are little, really cute. I mean really cute. I won’t say that my brother and I were given this lamb, because we were too young to be responsible for it, but we were regularly allowed to feed it. We regarded it as ours. We named it Lambey Dammey. I know, but we were kids and it rhymed.

Our lamb, let’s just call him LD, was so cute (I did mention that they were cute, right?) and so much fun for us. When it was time to feed we would be given a bottle of warm milk with a special nipple and told to go find LD. We would call him loudly as we walked around the barn. I know people say sheep are dumb animals, but he would always come running. I think the promise of food makes anyone smart smarter. I was the oldest so I would hold the bottle, at least that’s what the pictures suggest. Much of my early memories are fed by the pictures I’ve seen over and over, and the stories I’ve heard. Here is a picture of me, my brother Ron and LD, the cutest lamb ever. Just sayin’…

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A to Z Challenge: V for Vet’nary

The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner
The equine veterinarian practices bedside manner

One of my all time favorite tv series is James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small”. How interesting and fun it is to now be watching my daughter live out her own version of that story. Real doctors treat more than one species, or so it says on the back of her t-shirt. Doctor J is a vet’nary specializing in large animals, mainly horses but also cows, pigs, sheep, goats and other farm creatures.

 

Although this is a long standing dream of hers, to be a vet, and she finds it meaningful and satisfying, it is not always pleasant, convenient or easy. In fact, it is often unpleasant, inconvenient and hard. She has a mobile practice and travels from farm to farm with her truck full of supplies and equipment. At present, the area she covers is wide and she spends much time on the road. Many nights she is not home until 9 or 10 and still has her own animals to care for, oh, and herself to feed and put to bed. …

 

Sometimes when I visit, I ride with her and pretend I’m part of her team (after all, I am a nurse – I know how to fetch a scalpel or a suture, or the lubricant…). From my daughter I learned how to hold a sheep and how to pull a horse’s tongue out of the way while his teeth are getting filed (floated). She has saved a choking horse and set a lamb’s broken leg. She does ultrasounds and x-rays on her patients lugging heavy equipment cases to the field or the barn. She endures the most awkward positions for hours while sewing up a bad laceration or bandaging a difficult area. And she is often called upon when owners decide that their animal needs that last compassionate act.

 

And who would have thought that someone with sensitivities to organization (sock drawer perfection) and cleanliness (professional house cleaner) would develop such a high tolerance for dirt, manure and horse spit? It’s all part of the job for Dr. J., Equine Vet’nary.

 

how to hold a sheep getting it's leg x-rayed
how to hold a sheep getting it’s leg x-rayed

the Doc and her x-ray equipment
the Doc and her x-ray equipment