Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spaying Heifers

Friday we spayed some heifers. Spaying is when you remove the heifer's ovaries, so she cannot be bred. We do this with our heifers of inferior quality, thus preventing the bulls from being interested in her, and her being interested in the bulls. Feeders also like feeding these spayed heifers because they don't ride each other when they're in heat and are more focused on eating than reproducing.
My family has spayed our heifers we aren't keeping to breed most years. This year the high cattle markets are causing some people who would normally spay heifers to keep their lower quality animals and sell them as breeding stock. We still chose to spay the lower quality females, which included some purchased heifers that we don't know as much about as far as what kind of cows they would be or how big of calves they would have as first calf heifers. For our operation it's currently the best management decision for our non-replacement heifers.

Our neighbor also decided to spay his non-replacement heifers for the first time this year. He trailered them over to our house so the vet just had to make one stop. This is one of the management practices a vet performs for us.
The above picture also shows the problem that will be eliminated by spaying the females - see the very interested bulls? They won't care after the procedure is completed, and these females won't have to managed separate from all other yearling cattle.

Our neighbor ran the alley, and brought them down to the tub a few at a time.

Instead of standing in the tub, like I do, he would simply close it farther and stand on the outside.

Our other neighbor ran the single-file alley that leads to the chute, and the action on this day.

Once in the chute, the heifer was spayed, given a shot, tagged, and her tail was wrapped in duct tape to identify her as being spayed.

Here's how it looked from the alleyway. As with all things on a ranch, we tried to do things in the way that was easiest and fastest on the animals, and also time efficient.

The vet would dip her hand in this jug of lube between each animal.

And her assistant would disinfect and clean the tool used to spay the heifer between each animal.
There are multiple ways to spay heifers, and this was the first time we had seen this method. One older method was shave a square on the heifers side, then make an incision and go in and cut off the ovaries, then sew up the heifers side. This method was obviously pretty invasive, and took some time for the the heifer to recover from.
Another method we've had vets do is to go in vaginally with a tool that consists of a pipe within a pipe. He would line the pipes up over the ovary, then twist them, and snip it off. From there the vet would pull the tool back out and drop the ovary on the ground.

This vet used something similar to the last method, except with a slightly different tool, that acts like a pair of open scissors. Her's has an eye, that she slides over the ovary, then she pulls it against the wedge cutters (open scissors) and cuts it off, then simply drops it. We were concerned about the possibility of them reattaching, but she said that would take about 2 years, and by that time these non-replacement animals are typically in the food chain.
We much prefer these newer methods because they are so much easier on the heifers, and are a very minor procedure in comparison to the older methods.

She puts one arm in the heifers rectum to guide the tool she inserts in the heifers vagina. She is very careful and makes sure she has everything just right before actually cutting it off. If she were to mess up and cut the heifer's intestine, the heifer will die, and we will be calling her.

She pulled a couple out to show us, and here's one of them. I think in this picture it looks like tonsils. This isn't like a full hysterectomy in humans where everything is taken out as only the ovaries are removed.

Her assistant holds the heifer's tail out of the way, so she doesn't slap the vet with it. Having a female vet with smaller arms also made it easier on the heifers. Most just stood here like this girl, and it didn't bother them at all.

The vet brought official Wyoming blue tags, and had us tag each heifers for identification purposes after she was spayed. While we try to be as efficient as possible, nothing is done during the spaying process so the animals hold still for the vet.

Here's Kyle putting the tag in one's ear.

Each heifer was also given 10cc of Penicillin as a preventative measure against an infection from the procedure.

The shot is given in the neck because that's one of the best places to give a shot, and it's easily accessible.

Then the heifer is released, feeling none the worse for wear.

After they're all done, we turned them out with our replacement heifers, since their tales and blue tags clearly identify them as being spayed.


  1. I find this very interesting.
    I have not herd of, nor seen a heifer being spayed.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I love learning new things and especially found the picture of the ovary interesting, my vet has talked about how they feel before so it was cool to see what he was talking about.
    Glad it seemed not as invasive as I pictured it would be,even though I'm sure the cow thought it sucked!

  2. Is the heifer given pain medication? I can't imagine this wouldn't hurt, at least at the time it is performed..