We were finishing up our day last week when one of the guys noticed that Graham looked a bit worse for wear.
It seems that Graham had found a way to get to some potatoes late in the day and he was now paying for it by bloating. Because of the rich diet we feed, we deal with bloat with our cattle. We’re pretty good at avoiding it but sometimes things happen, like in this instance.
Since we deal with it often, we also are pretty good at treating bloat. However we had a few issues to deal with.
One. It was pretty hot, which is why he was bloating. So this was going to be no fun.
Two. Graham weighed, at his last weigh in, 1452 pounds. He does not fit in the head gate like a normal cow.
Three. It was already 5 o’clock. We all had places to be.
Oh well, farming comes first. So we rigged up a lane and ran the cows into the corral. Then we sorted out Graham and got him into the head gate, as best he could fit. He was inside, but the actual locking part of the gate wouldn’t fit his huge neck so he wasn’t secured in place where he couldn’t move around. This is important because in order to treat his bloat, we had to insert a trocar and it’s a lot easier if the animal is still.
Inserting a trocar means minor surgery and jamming something into his side that I’m sure, given his druthers, he’s just assume I kept to myself.
However, this is the best way to save his life so it had to be done. I worked on Graham and quite quickly I got my hand jammed between him and the steel top rail as he moved around. Graham was very calm and behaving himself, but he’s dancing around because I’m messing with him. On one of his moves, he popped two of the bars out, just like you see in the picture above. Except those were moved down on purpose my releasing steel clamps that hold the bars in place. Graham flexed and blew them out, and got his leg out too in the process.
So now we have a calm, but unhappy bull, mostly inside a head gate which is unlocked, standing on three legs and with one leg hanging out in the breeze on our side. A lot of times the cow will pull the leg back in the next time they move. Or I could tie his leg back to hold it where it is. But he’s almost done and we are too so let’s just get this over with.
As I finished up the prep and went to insert the trocar, I had to climb up on the head gate to get enough leverage to push it in. Graham decided he didn’t like what I was doing and, reasonably, kicked. Kicking would be no problem because he’s in the head gate. Cows kick all the time. So whatever.
Except Graham’s leg isn’t safely in the head gate. It’s hanging outside, with us.
But he cannot reach us, so no big deal.
Except, I’m standing on the head gate, just above Graham.
Now we have the final link in the accident chain. Too big of an animal, not secured properly, not inside like he’s supposed to be, and a farmer closer than he is supposed to be to the action.
Graham caught me right in the thigh with that one kick.
I knew I’d been popped pretty good because Miguel didn’t make fun of me as I hobbled away. At least not for the first few minutes. Once he saw I was going to live, and so was Graham, then he started making fun of me. That’s when I knew I’d be ok.
Joking aside, this could have easily been a damaged knee, needing surgery and rehab.
So what went wrong?
I saw Graham’s leg sticking out.
I knew he could and probably would kick.
I had a rope already laying there I could have used to secure it.
I knew better.
I was in a hurry and didn’t take the extra two minutes to tie up his leg and I got a nice reminder that getting kicked is the result of carelessness. The head gate has adjustments, but nothing that will accommodate somebody as big as Graham. They make bigger, better head gates, but this one does 99% of what we need and it is paid for. I just need to take extra care when we have an overly large bull in there.