Around the time we had our chicken harvest, our baby calves came down with Pink Eye. We noticed it first in the second youngest calf…the one that was too lazy to search out his mom, if you so recall.
We check on our cattle every day, often times more than once. But, as you well know, cows run in herds. And when you see the herd mullin’ around, nicely chewin’ their cud and swattin’ at flies with their tails, well…..well, they check out just fine.
Mother cows keepin’ up their conditioning? Check.
Grass supply sufficient? Check.
Babes nursing? Check.
Water tank in workin’ order? Check.
General all-around happiness? Check.
I guess what I’m saying is that we don’t literally look them all in the eye, every day of the week. And especially not in each eye, as was needed in this particular case.
When I checked on little lazy calf, he looked just fine. Perfectly fine. Until he turned his head the other way, which provoked me to loudly exclaim, “WOA….What is THAT?”
*Insert violin soundtrack here*
Oh no! His eye! His poor, poor eye. It was all squinty, and runny, and sportin’ a nice crop of flies, those despicable creatures. The worst part was that his eyeball was snow-white. White as could be. The kind of white that you know means one, and only one thing: Blindness.
My heart sunk. My (s)mothering instinct kicked into full gear. And my thoughts started racing: Could he have impaled himself on a piece of wire? Did he get kicked by another? Was there a possible predator attack?
But then I knew. I just knew. I knew the truth when he walked out of the shed for a moment, only to immediately turn around and high-tail it back in.
No, no, no.
Not Pink Eye. Anything but Pink Eye.
But Pink Eye it was. I started looking, really looking this time at each and every calf. In each and every eye. And in all of the calves but one, I saw it. I saw the signs of that blasted disease, and in the blink of an eye (sorry) I knew our lives had become much more complicated.
I called the vet and arranged to pick up an antibiotic spray that would need to be sprayed in the affected eyes, once a day. The exact indications read: 2 squirts directly on the eyeball, every day until the infection clears up.
Did I mention that it could take over a month for the infection to clear up? And that we had to spray the antibiotic directly on the eyeball?!?!? It was going to be one long month. Sigh.
All but one calf had Pink Eye, so we decided to treat them all. The flies were carrying the infection from one calf to another anyway, so it was only a matter of time before the last one would contract it as well.
And hence began the rodeo at Irish Grove. ‘Cause for the next week, once a day, we had to corral the little buggers into a corner pen in the bullshed, handling them one by one, until we had sprayed their infected eyes with the antibiotic.
Marcel came to the scene armed with a lasso, I came with the spray. Marcel would gently slip the lasso over the head of one calf, and then quickly pull it tight. At this point the calf would go nuts, bawlin’ and kickin’ and jumpin’ all over the place. Marcel would hold on tight until the calf was close to a corner of the pen, at which point Marcel’d shove his butt into the corner, and I’d shove his head and neck against the wall.
We’d have about 3 seconds before the calf figured out that if he jumped forward, he could get out of this hold. Umm, 3 seconds is not a lot of time. Especially when you’ve gotta ply open an eyelid and spray 2 squirts of antibiotic onto their bare eyeball. I’m sure you can imagine that the calves just somehow weren’t quite goin’ for the whole scene.
I’d usually get one squirt in before the kickin’ and jumpin’ and bawlin’ started up again. Oh, and did I mention that we’re in a pen with all 8 calves, not just one? Yeah, so while we’re trying to wrestle one calf into a corner, we’re also tripping over and generally trying to avoid gettin’ kicked by the other 7. But it’s easier to control an animal when he’s with his buddies then when he’s alone, so believe it or not, this was the better option.
After a few days of corraling calves, squirting ’em in the eyes, and leaving the barn covered from head to toe in manure, we noticed the calves weren’t getting any better. The spray wasn’t working.
We didn’t want to, but we had to call the vet and have her come out. The vet came the very next day, and we repeated the rodeo scene for the last time. But instead of spraying them in the eyes, she gave them a shot of antibiotics in the neck, and then a shot into the tear duct!
*Cringe. Wince. Shudder.*
The shot into the tear duct bathes the eye with antibiotic every time they blink, as the intra-muscular shot works its way throught the blood stream to the infection. As horrible as it was, I was relieved that it was finally going to help the poor calves.
I have to brag and say that the vet was very impressed with our setup, and especially with how smoothly it went. It’s always nice to be complimented, but especially by the veterinarian!
Pink Eye is a horrible disease to suffer through, and a horrible one to treat. But I’ve gotta be straight with y’all: I enjoyed every last minute of it. Handling those calves was exhilarating!
A little extra swagger in my step? Check.