Monday, February 1, 2010
Well, ok, so its really not spring, heck tomorrow is just Ground Hog Day! Let me just say, I have my own thoughts about Ground Hog Day, and, having lived in the mountains of north central Pennsylvania for some years (!), I honestly think that Ground Hog day was the idea of a bunch of laid-off workers hanging around a bar one cold and boring afternoon looking for something to do, which, oddly enough, involved a most unsuspecting groundhog, or, woodchuck, depending on where you are from. Anyway, most of us know that Groundhogs are smart enough to know not to venture out of their cozy dens in February (unlike us), and most of us realize that some guy in a tux and top hat yanking a pet woodchuck out of his cage once a year is no meteorologist by a long shot! But hey, half the time the animal is right, half the time wrong, so at least his reliability is about the same as most weather forecasters these days....(no offense to meteorologists intended!)
That being said, some of you here in the Northeast may have begun to see your animals hair falling off, out, and being rubbed off, in various places, such as the tops of the shoulders, necks and bellies. Now this is no cause for alarm, merely cause for conversation (for some I suppose).
Really, its an early sign of spring, just as the animals growing their winter coats, so it is when the sun begins to swing up a little higher each day in the sky, these guys have had it with that heavy scratchy itchy dull can't do a thing with it hair coat of theirs. So they rub, and they scratch. This is where having horns really helps on my cattle, because those horns can reach all those hard to scratch places. Posts, trees, feeders, equipment, you name it, they will start rubbing. And, they will look rangy, mangy and rough. The hair falls off in patches and creases, leaving bare skin with just a prickle of new hair beneath. Sometimes there is irritation, little red dots and such from the rubbing, and sometimes it may be bugs, too!
But, if its not red and irritated, terribly scaly or just gross, its probably just the annual spring rub-off.
If it drives you crazy, think how they feel. If the skin (hide) below is rough or awful looking, you can put some medicine on the skin to help sooth it if you like.
Lots of folks ask me what do I use for treating my animals, or what do I have on hand, just in case. So I took a picture you see here of what I keep handy at the house and quite frankly, don't seem to need much else when it comes to treating anything of a superficial nature on my livestock.
Here is what I like to have around: (from left to right)
Neem Seed Oil
Tree Tea Oil
Dr. Naylors Blu-Kote
The oils you can get at any health food store, and are powerful antiseptic/antifungels. I will mix a few drops with the petroleum jelly and make a salve for wounds, but especially like to use it when we have an animal de-horned and the area needs protection and healing; it does a wonderful job of keeping flies off as well. Aloe Vera is a natural healing ointment as well and can be mixed in, too.
The Bag Balm is good for rough skin and, the Blu-Kote is an old favorite since my dairy days for just about everything. A small bottle seems to last forever (a little goes a long way) and its so handy to grab it and spray; it forms a moist protective covering that stays for a couple days so it doesn't wash or wear off quickly, just be careful not to get the spray on your hands, clothes, etc: as it will stain; trust me on this! It is also inexpensive, and can be found at any Agway or farm supply store. Its been around forever, so its got to be good!
Another thing I tell folks is that you can use some of the same stuff on your animals as you use for yourself; Neosporine type ointments, spray antiseptics, etc. If its safe for humans, its probably safe (topical, of course) for use on your cattle.
Iodine I keep for dipping navels,and is a good antiseptic too.
Now if the animals are just going crazy scratching and itching and not loosing a lot of hair, they may have lice. Before you freak out, let me tell you it is fairly common in livestock, and we got it in our small herd of dairy cows from time to time too. How or where, who knows? Our animals were and are a closed herd, kept clean and brushed, so who knows, but if you suspect that is the case, you may have to dust them along their backs with a lice powder you can get at the local farm supply as well. Just pick a nice day outside, get some rubber gloves and put a light coating all along their backs , necks,and tail head, being mindful to work it in through the hair coat to the skin. Try to be upwind (wearing a dust mask is a good idea) so any dust blows away from you, any feed, and water, as this is serious insecticide, but takes care of the problem after one or two applications. As much as I hate using any chemicals around my animals, I will if absolutely necessary for their comfort and well being. I've only had to dust my cows once in 5 years, when they first arrived, so it should be a rare if ever occurrence. But, good to know, just in case.
If in doubt, you can always ask your vet. Over the years of owning dairy, beef and a horse,(yes, and dogs, a cat, and chickens) I've come to realize that a lot of minor issues regarding animal health can be resolved using a few proven, selected products, a dose of common sense, and an observant eye. Spending time around your stock on a daily basis will help you know what is normal for your animals, and help you to identify when something isn't quite right. Of course there will be days you check the water, throw the hay and "is everyone one standing and eating?, good, I'm outta here", but watching and handling your animals when you can makes it easy to treat them when as well. Most cows love to be brushed, especially along the back where they can't reach, and will stand still for as long as you care to comb them. This is also a great way to give them a shot if you need to; just brush hard, slap with your fist (where you want to administer the shot)at the same time, and when they get used to that brushing and slapping (distraction) just have the needle in that same hand that's slapping and pop it in on one of the slaps....they usually don't have a clue. Works like a charm.
Enjoy these nice days....spring is still a ways off for us I'm afraid!