by Tammy Taylor
Most of you already know that due to health issues I wasn’t able to raise my beloved batch of bottle baby calves this year as I usually do, and as a result RancherMan purchased bottle-fed calves that had already been weaned to pasture so that I could still enjoy their cuteness. (I love him for that)
Most of you also know that the seller of the bottle calves told us they were vaccinated to protect them against blackleg, even giving us a product name and date vaccinated, yet TWO of the nine calves died suddenly & unexpectedly. When we lost the second calf we contacted our vet and scheduled an onsite necropsy and he determined the calf died from blackleg! We immediately loaded up the remaining calves and brought them through the chute and properly immunized them so they would finally be protected. Although it was getting dark by that time we noticed one of the remaining steer calves was not properly castrated and a testicle remained, although it was now tucked high up on his belly & possibly covered in scar tissue.
I called the seller and told her about our blackleg diagnosis and she became very defensive and even patronizing saying she was not responsible, rambling for quite some time about her qualifications as a pharmacist (What??). I notified her also of the apparent improper castration & she shrugged that off as well as she began explaining to me that sometimes a testicle doesn’t descend, blah, blah, blah. But the question remains – why in the world would you band a single testicle of a calf in the first place? In the end I just wrote it off to a bad experience from what appears to be either an unscrupulous dishonest seller or at the very least a seller that knows nothing about the animal they are selling but trying to fast-talk their way into sounding like an expert hoping I know nothing about raising cattle and am mesmerized by their apparent knowledge. No I wasn’t fooled.
Now upon closely inspecting the remaining steers we found yet another boy with a botched castration so we contacted our vet for guidance. RancherMan & I have steered many calves over the years either by banding or by cutting, but this botched job complicates things quite a bit. Will the remaining testicle be surrounded by scar tissue? Will the calf bleed too much? Can the remaining testicle be removed easily? Our vet gave us some guidance and after careful consideration and inspection we decided to go ahead and correct the castrations.
RancherMan & I believe in treating our animals as gently as possible so we took our time getting them to the pen, through the alley and into the chute, speaking softly to them and guiding them slowly. In the end we were successful in completing these two calves’ castrations and although it was difficult for both rancher & calf we are confident that we’ve done all we possibly could to ease their discomfort.
But the question remains – Why not do it right in the first place? A blackleg immunization costs about $0.95 per dose, there’s absolutely no reason to risk that sweet calf dying from something so preventable. And why NOT give the vaccine yet tell the buyer after the fact that the vaccine had been administered? (We already had possession of the calves so it wasn’t to make a sale.) And when you do mess up whether through purposeful or accidental omission – for cryin’ out loud own up to it and do the right thing so that you can stand the reflection you see in the mirror staring back at you. I think in the end it’s just easier all the way around to do things right the first time.
OK, soapbox removed & put away.