Now that calving season is all but wrapped up (Northern producers, don’t be haters), we are starting our Spring round of vaccinations, or sometimes referred to as doctoring cattle. It makes for some long workdays, but we only do this twice a year. Once in the Spring when calving is finished but before hay season starts, and in the Fall for calf weaning and pregnancy checking.
In our Spring round of vaccinating or doctoring cattle, we administer vaccinations for a variety of diseases that affect cattle in our area and use dewormers to rid of internal parasites. This is also a good time to castrate and tag any calves that may have been missed at calving (but I do my best not to miss any). We are also sorting a few herds for better pasture and bull management.
I once had someone ask if I felt like a doctor, drawing up all this medicine, using syringes and needles. My response? Not really. Sure I have learned what all of the medicines and vaccines do, but I don’t feel like a doctor. It’s a part of taking care of my cattle using the best management practices our veterinarians have taught us.
First, we catch the herd of cows we intend to work with. This is usually tricky because if they notice the slightest thing differently they get suspicious. Most of our pastures have smaller catch pens, so I will tease them with some feed a few days in advance. Once caught in the pen, we are good to go (until something jumps a fence or a gate comes unlatched!).
Vaccinating and Doctoring Calves
Then we sort off the calves so we can put the cows through the chute without them getting in the way. We will work them after the cows. These little calves can kick often and high so watch out. They are a little squirrelly and slippery too. We usually push them up the alley to the catch chute one or two at a time. This will keep them from turning around in the alley and help things go more calmly and safer. But you can expect to get kicked, feet stomped, pooped on, and slobbered on.
Working Cattle in Chute
This is our squeeze chute where we catch cattle while giving vaccinations. The chute doesn’t hurt the cattle but keeps them calm and quiet while we administer meds. Dr. Grandin describes it as a big hug. As you can see my table set-up is not too fancy. One barrel for the trash, a sharps container for needles and syringes, and a 1×6 board as a table for syringes and paperwork for recordkeeping. Then there is the cooler to store vaccines. It’s important to keep our medicines cold when not in use. So I keep extra bottles and ice packs in there.
Then it’s off to work! We keep our cows in shade and water on warm days. Less stress equals happier cattle!