Happy Farm Animals 101: Vaccinations

Farmers and ranchers often get a lot of attention from activists about vaccinations, shots and anything that deals with needles and cattle in the same sentence! But, I’m here to set the record straight – sometimes shots are what it takes to make happy farm animals.

On our farm back home in Texas, our land is known for having a disease commonly called “Black leg”. The symptoms are rare, and the indicator of black leg is mainly a pasture full of dead cattle! The prevention however is simple, one shot once a year keeps cattlemen in the clear! Other vaccinations we often give our calves are preventative shots to keep away pneumonia and scours.

By having these vaccines, cattle can stay healthy and happy! And to prove the dedication of farmers and ranchers, just think how many Americans regularly go to the doctor to get preventative vaccines? Even the flu shot once a year? Do you? Cattlemen are sure to follow the guidelines on the medicine bottle, and if a label says “give every 6 weeks”, you better believe that every 6 weeks the farm is in motion giving shots!

Here are a few pictures from my families recent “cattle working day”:

The first step in working cow/calf pairs is to seperate the mommas and babies. And no, this is not cruelty. The pairs are only seperated for a few hours and if they were to stay together during the working process, it would be far to easy for a momma to accidentally step on a baby while going through the chute. Through seperation, the babies are sure to stay safe.

After seperation of mommas and babies, it's important to make sure there is a constant supply of calves coming through the chute. Ensuring the line never stops makes the process go faster and ultimately puts less stress on all cattle involved. If you notice, the walls leading up to the chute are solid metal, with no bars or chains. This is an animal welfare technique suggested by Dr. Temple Grandin. The solid sides make for less distraction and stress on the cattle.

This action would go as follows: the calf (or cow) would come through the chute, one man would "catch the head" or slip a device over the calf's head to make it hold still long enough for the other two people to give the shots! Shots are administered in the neck region where it will cause no harm to the meat, one of two ways: under the skin or in the muscle. The label on the medicine bottle will specify which administering technique is recommended. All of our workers are specifically trained to give the most pain -free, welfare-happy shot possible.

Farmers and ranchers are sure to draw out the exact amount of medicine needed! An overdose could be lethal, while to little medicine would not offer the protection from diseases!

We tag all of our calves when they are a couple months old so we know who has been sick, what medicines they've recieved, who their mother is and for pure record keeping purposes!

And finally, record keeping! It is vital for farmers and ranchers to keep records to know what cows have produced calves, recieved shots, moved pastures, anything! On our farm, we make sure every cow is accounted for in nearly every action she does!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s “Happy Farm Animal” info, be sure to check back for more!

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