It’s 12:00am. I sit on the couch wrapped in a blanket my mother made me cuddled up with my furry feline friend. I’m comfy and warm in pants from Africa my sister-in-law brought back for me. It’s also time to check the heavies.
Through the years, I have learned one thing: don’t wear your pjs to the calving lot.
The temptation is great to just throw on a coat and my boots and head out with the spotlight. But I have seen what’s been in our pickup. Do I really want to sit in that, then tuck myself into bed?
This brings to mind the issue of cleanliness and calving. There is such a thing as Zoonotic diseases (i.e. conditions that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa). For example, scours (a type of bacterial diarrhea) is a common problem in calving, especially after a cold spell has hit calving. This is not something you want to contract as a human.
Here is a link to a list of some zoonotic diseases:
Drovers Cattle Network, Zoonotic Diseases of Cattle
Besides the threat to myself, cleanliness also poses a threat to the cattle. When pulling a calf, it is extremely important that everything is disinfected (the chains, your gloves). The threat of a person introducing a harmful bacteria to the cow is of more threat than most anything we may catch from her.
On the other hand, conditions that would make a cow ill and produce a still born calf could be a result of a zoonotic condition that one would want to prevent from having on themselves or their clothing.
In light of this, I’ll share some tips on calving cleanliness:
- Always wash your hands the minute you come inside. I laughed at my husband just the other day as he cleaned meconium calf poop off the steering wheel and door sides that got on his gloves while tagging a calf. I touch that steering wheel with my bare hands and think nothing of it. So it’s a good measure to just wash your hands a lot.
- Wash your clothing. Jackets and coveralls are large, awkward, and bulky to wash. They don’t stay clean long either. But when I start seeing crispy, UCOs (unidentifiable calving objects) on my outer wear, it goes in the wash. I would hate to spread something to other animals through my clothing. This was the 3rd rinse of my husband’s coat (#ranchwife problems):
- Spray calves umbilical cords with Stronger Iodine 7% soon after birth (as soon as possible in the calving barn). Their umbilical cords are like a super highway for germs and bacteria. It can lead to a condition called navel ill (or joint ill). An article on navel ill can be found on The Cattle Site (click the link).
- I wear gardening gloves while pulling a calf. While my husband is suited up in OB sleeves to his armpit, I am not. I come into contact with all the fluids of calving and gardening gloves protect my finger tips and palms. On top of being water proof, they are easy to clean and quick to dry.
I also think of all the parasites that farm and ranch animals can have. We use Ivermectin to control parasites, but one can only go so far. This is just another reason to wash hands and clothing.
I don’t like being germaphobe. I’m not a germaphobe. Life here would be impossible if I were. I think of all the things our veterinarians come in contact with and they are still alive and healthy. Once I watched a vet put the handle of a bloody scalpel in his mouth mid C-section because it was the cleanest place to put it. That’s hardcore, and he’s just fine. It made me feel like a wuss for rinsing my mouth 5 times after a cow stomped in a mix of birthing fluids and poop, splashing it into my eyes and mouth. You apply prevention where it is reasonable the best you can.
Another aspect is ranching law. I may think it’s a quick trip to check heavies, but ranching law will have you at 2 am, mid blizzard, wrestling a slimy, newborn calf in the back of a pickup truck as it pees down your legs. Do I really want to be in my pjs for that? Been there. You never know what you’ll end up doing.
And yet, sometimes I still wear my pjs.
(yes, that is a skunk…)
Fun Fact: Ivermectin is a broad spectrum antiparasitic used from dogs to cattle and other farm animals. My doctor told me she’s even prescribed it to people.