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PEACHES-The Limping Geldvie

June 4, 2010

The phone Call

The neighbor called and needed some help with one of her cows.  They raise Geldvie Cattle, a beef variety, down the road a piece.  The cow, named Peaches, had developed a slight limp, and the hooves on her back leg were out of shape.

Getting her ready

My son and I were working on another project, so I asked him to go along.  When we arrived we watched Peaches, in a pen with her calf, and two other cows with their calves. She was walking gingerly on her left rear foot.  The veterinarian would be arriving soon, and would examine Peaches to determine what the problem was, and try to correct the problem.  Our job was to get her into the barn, in a stall that opened to a cattle chute, where she could be restrained, and have her foot examined, safely.

The Task at hand

Now, Dear reader, a new mama cow does NOT want to be separated from her calf.  And an animal that weighs in the neighborhood of 1200 pounds, can provide for some real entertainment if you get her dander up.  Have you ever watched a RODEO?  So when working around cattle one must be very careful not to get between them and a hard place, like a wall or fence; and also keep one’s feet out from under the cow’s hooves.

My son took the job of maneuvering the gate between the pen and the barn. The neighbor and I slowly walked between Peaches and her calf and the other cattle. We moved s-l-o-w-l-y and spoke in soft tones so as not to get anyone’s dander up.  With the gate open, and Peaches moving smoothly toward the barn,  her baby naturally wanted to follow.  It took some swift gatesmanship to allow Peaches in and keep her calf out, but Junior was up to the task and step one was completed. (Is *gatesmanship* a real word?)

The vet arrives

So we had Peaches in the stall adjacent to the cattle chute, where a long metal swing gate opened into the barn yard.  If one opens that gate Peaches could go into the narrow chute (about 2 feet wide) or out into the unfenced barnyard (opening is about 6 foot wide) where succulent green grass grows, and freedom awaits.  Which would YOU choose?

So we needed to improvise a gate panel so the only option would be the cattle chute.  We did this with a heavy, hardwood fence section made with four 1″ x 6″ horizontal sections, nailed secured to three vertical sections. This we chained to one side of the the cattle chute, and tied to an eyebolt affixed outside the barn door.

Oh, did I mention that Peaches had the runs?  No?  Well when a cow has a mild case of diarrhea, it makes everyone else’s day, umm, stinky.  That’s why there is so much straw on the floor in a cattle barn.  Uneventfully, we got Peaches into the cattle chute, and used some straw to wipe off her less appealing rear parts.

The cattle chute has adjustable steel bars on the front that are moved by a handle.  When the cow attempts to walk through the chute, the operator changes the V shaped opening size, and closes it on the neck of the cow. If it is adjusted properly, the V rests along side her neck, but is too small for her shoulders or her head to pass through.

With Peaches properly restrained, the vet wrapped a heavy rope around peaches left rear leg, and lifted her hoof off the ground.  Cinching the rope on one of the bars of the chute, he asked Junior to hold tension on the rope.  My part was to hold Peaches tail in an upright and curled forward direction.  This takes a great deal of force, as her tail, at the base, is the diameter of a large egg, well muscled, and she does not want it held in that position. It takes both hands to do this, but it also keeps her from kicking.  Most of the time.

Now with Peaches head caught in the front of the chute, her tail held up and bent forward, her left rear leg lassoed and held up, the vet got to prying around in her hoof.  He used a file like device to shave some hoof material off the bottom, and a garden hose to clear compacted material from between the two front *toes*.  Finally, out popped a small stone the size of a large pea.  A little more shaving of the hoof, to allow for drainage, and the work was done.

The restraints were removed, and Peaches enthusiastically backed out of the chute, into the barn, and then through the open gate to reunite with her calf.  And after a short period of observation in the pen, the vet advised that she and baby Peaches be allowed out onto the pasture.

This kind of drama happens on a regular basis, where a veterinarian drives dozens of miles to provide services, and family farmers take care of business, every day of the week. I hope that you will think of the commitment of the men and women that raise your food from time to time.  When you are in the supermarket, picking out a cellophane wrapped package of ground chuck for the barbeque, remember that the people that grow the beef, pork, chicken and other meats are out there, tending their animals.  Day in, day out, even on the day of rest they are watching, feeding, watering and worrying.   A pea sized pebble was the impetus for this story.  And Peaches and her calf are out on the pasture right now, thankful for the good stewardship of family farmers that care.

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