Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wellie's Castration Story

When we decided last summer that Wellie would be castrated, I talked to our vet about when and how to do it.  He advised doing it when Wellie was 4-5 months old, by cutting rather than banding.  He wanted to wait until Wellie was old enough for his vaccines and fly season was past.

He said he would give Wellie a shot of tetanus antitoxin as well as a tetanus vaccine (and his other vaccines) at the same time.  In the absence of a previous tetanus vaccine, the antitoxin would prevent any chance of tetanus while the vaccine built up immunity over a two week period.  We had heard tragic stories about people who castrated calves and gave tetanus vaccines, only to have the calves die of tetanus before the vaccines could build up immunity.

Unfortunately, life got in the way for the vet and us, and we were unable to get him here when planned.  Finally, I decided that at 8 1/2 months Wellie really needed to be castrated, and I called another vet.  (We like to keep good relations with several vets for cases just like this when one can't make it.)  The second vet also prefers castrating as less painful, uses the same tetanus prevention protocol, and agreed to use a local anesthetic.  So we set a date for the deed.

On Feb. 11 we put Wellie into the squeeze chute.
The vet folded down several of the squeeze bars so he could reach Wellie and administered the local anesthetic.  He gave it time to take effect while he gave vaccines to Wellie and Ebony.

I saw that the vet used a tool called a Newberry knife and made a slit in the back of the scrotum.  After that I went up by Wellie's head and did not see the actual operation.  I learned later that some vets cut off the bottom portion of the scrotum to allow for drainage, but ours made an incision in the middle.  It bled a little, but not much, and the vet said it would swell up and remain swollen for several days.  When I asked about disinfecting the site, he said I could use 1/2% iodine, so I sprayed some on.

During the operation, Royal came over to check on Wellie.  Of course, when it was his turn later to get in the squeeze chute to get a magnet, he did NOT want to go in!  I assured him that considering the per capita price we had paid for his testicles, they were quite safe!

Wellie jumped more over his immunizations than he did over the local.  He struggled a bit during the surgery, but less than I have seen cows fight over a shot.  Although the vet says they have more pain with banding, I don't think there is a painless way to castrate.

I know some farms do not castrate meat animals, but we simply do not have enough pastures to keep intact bull calves separate from cows and heifers.  As he has gotten older, Wellie has engaged in more head-butting challenges with Royal and Sir Loin, the older steer.  Being so small, he gets pushed around, and although he has never been hurt, I hope that he will now act less like a bull.

I do not like castration.  I wish it didn't have to be done, and I'm sure Wellie did, too.  But if we are going to be responsible breeders, we have to make sure that a bull calf that is not breeding quality is not breeding our cows and heifers.
I kept a frequent eye on Wellie to be sure he was okay.  The rest of that day and the next, he was moving slowly (to be expected), but was nursing, eating hay and chewing his cud.  Then on the morning of the 13th, I found him laying partly on his side with his legs spread out as if to keep them off his swollen scrotum.  When I got him up to check on him, his rumen was hollow (showing he had not eaten a lot of hay), and he looked peaked.  Half of Siobhan's udder was full, so he had obviously not nursed much, and I decided to take his temperature.  It was 24° out, so Wellie might be expected to register lower than the bovine normal of 101.5°, but his temperature was 103.9°.

I was quite concerned and called the vet, who had gone out of town!  Not only that, his partner does not do farm calls, and he didn't have another vet to cover for him.  So I called the original vet I had hoped to have do the castration.  He agreed that Wellie's temperature was too high and said if I would meet him, he would give me an antibiotic.  I made the two-hour round trip and came home with Excede, a long-lasting antibiotic, as well as a bottle of Banamine to relieve pain and fever.  Pain inhibits animals from healing, and when they are given pain relief, they tend to heal more quickly.

Herb was gone all day, and I was pretty sure from previous experience giving shots to cattle, that I would not be able to do it alone, even with the squeeze chute.  So I called on our neighbor, Randy, who came over with his son to help.  Excede is very thick and must be given sub-cutaneously behind the ear--never in a vein or muscle--using a large-bore needle.  Banamine goes in the neck muscle with a smaller needle.  Wellie objected strenuously enough, even in the chute, that I was very thankful for help holding him.

Randy, who grew up with cattle and had seen many castrations, felt that the bulge of tissue protruding from Wellie's incision was not normal.  I had no frame of reference at all, but tended to agree with him.  When I posted a photo later, other cattle owners agreed.  Once Wellie was medicated, I took a bucket of hot water and cleaned the incision of dried exudate, making sure it could continue to drain as necessary.  I also applied oil of oregano around the incision on the advice of my family cow friends.  Within a couple hours, Wellie was obviously feeling better, eating better and had nursed Siobhan out.

Herb and I gave him Banamine the next morning to make sure he continued to feel well and eat well.  He objected much more vigorously than he had the day before, so I decided that if he felt that good, he didn't need any more Banamine.

Wellie is back to normal now, and his scrotal swelling is gone.  He's eating well and acting lively.  Here he is visiting with his buddy Sir Loin at the barnyard gate.

Today Wellie wanted to nurse, and Siobhan pushed him away several times.  (That's another story.)  In a fit of temper, he charged one of the ducks.  The snow in the barnyard was slippery and crusty with ice, so Wellie hunched his back and crow-hopped across the barnyard, landing each jump on all four feet, pursuing the hapless duck who fled with flapping wings as fast as his short little legs could go.

Without a camera, all I could do was stand there and laugh.  The duck escaped with everything intact except his dignity, and I was just happy to see Wellie feeling so fine.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I LOVE comments so please take a minute and let me know you were here! Sorry I have to use Captcha, but I hope you'll comment anyway! Comments make my day! :)