Thursday, June 9, 2011

Treating Scours

Scours are diarrhea in calves, and can be caused by grass, too much milk, or more serious bacterial or viral issues, and are one of the leading health issues in baby calves were my uncle lives. If the bacterial or viral versions are left untreated in young calves, scours can lead to death. We treated several of his calves for scours while branding. Ranchers are always taking advantage of the opportunity to improve the health of their livestock, even if it isn't the primary job of the day.
We give calves a low-grade antibiotic and sulfur pill - think an Imodium AD pill for cattle, to treat this issue.

The process goes like this:

You pull back the cylinder of the pill gun, and put a pill in the end. It kind of sticks in there a little bit - you can just see the end of the pill in the above photo, and that the circle at the end is pulled out.

You want to give the calf the pill when his head is up, so we tip our chute back down after we're done branding the calf. This method works really well for us.

Kyle is our best pill-giver. He sticks a thumb in the corner of the calves mouth to open it. The calf is unaware of the benefits of the pill, and isn't necessarily excited about taking it, much like little kids and medicine.

He holds the calf's mouth open, and inserts the gun into its mouth and down it's throat.

He makes sure he keeps the gun sliding down the esophagus to the stomach, and not into the lungs. This is the tricky part that makes some people nervous, and he feels along the calf's mouth and neck as he guides the gun.

This same approach is used when tubing a calf. Tubing is when you run a special tube down a calf's throat, just like this. The tube is attached to a pouch of milk, and when you get the tube into the stomach, you allow the milk to pour into the calf's stomach. This is only done when the calf is too weak to drink milk, and is a last resort to save it's life. If you put the tube into the calf's lungs instead of his stomach, he will drown. The thought of drowning a calf makes a lot of people (especially ranch wives in my experience) nervous - they don't want to kill the calf. Kyle's level of skill in this area is much appreciated by everyone, and he can tube a calf very fast and efficiently too!

Once the gun is in place, he pushes that circle on the end, which forces the pill out of the gun and into the calf's throat, or stomach. He uses his leg to hold the calf's head still, and prevent it from trashing around. If you just put the pill in the calf's mouth, he would spit it out. We go through this necessary procedure to ensure the calf gets the medication it needs to recover from scours.

The Kyle gently pulls the gun out of the calf's mouth, and off it goes. Sometimes bad cases require multiple treatments, but a lot of times one pill will do the job in mild cases.

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