Lessons From a New Mini Owner

I’m a newby to the world of miniature Hereford ownership and also a first time owner of cattle. I grew up a farm kid and we had everything except cows. My folks always said we couldn’t really afford to buy a calf. My brothers showed sheep in 4-H for many years and I showed a pony I had trained to pull a cart. I didn’t catch on to the money making aspect of market animals until I was a senior in high school and took my first and only lamb to the fair.
I’d like to share, over time, the lessons I’ve learned about raising miniature Hereford cattle. Hopefully, others will get something useful out of my experiences. In my first year of ownership I treated 2 cows for hoof rot and had a bull break his penis. Yes…you read that correctly!
In the driest summer I’ve experienced in Ohio, I was surprised to have two cows lame with hoof rot. From the term, I would expect an animal to get it when they are standing in mud all the time. Our sheep would often get it in the sloppy winter months. I was also surprised that the cows actually had enough sense to bring themselves to the barn where I could discover them, rather than stay up in our hill pasture which still had vegetation despite the drought. Even though they were near the barn, it was still a chore to get them into the barn for inspection because they weren’t halter broke. Lesson number one…HALTER BREAK YOUR ENTIRE HERD! Most of my cows were adults when I purchased them, and were not accustomed to a halter. It was not fun struggling to bring in an 800 lb. reluctant animal into the barn in 100% humidity!
I tried the cheap route of treatment with the first cow, and won’t again. I cleaned the hoof with warm soapy water (Epsom Salt also works) and used baling twine to floss between her toes and remove decayed tissue. Then I doused the foot with Coppertox daily. After 3 days with no sign of improvement I ended up giving her a shot of Liquimycin antibiotic. Lesson number two…GET A CATTLE CHUTE! I didn’t have one, was by myself, and after an hour of struggling with her I was finally able to get an injection into the poor beast after tying up her leg and using my t-shirt to cover her eyes. Yes…I was standing in the barn dripping wet with sweat with just a bra on, but it worked. Thank goodness they sell the antibiotics over the counter!! The second cow was treated with antibiotic immediately and recovered much quicker. I was dreading having the entire herd turn up lame, but fortunately only had the two.
Now about that broken bull! I was horrified to find my young bull in terrible condition. The last four inches of his penis were hard and black like frostbite. He was also unable to retract. Fortunately he was still eating, drinking, and able to urinate. We made a quick visit to the vet to determine if we needed to butcher him immediately before infection spread. Since he was still able to urinate, our vet said he would likely recover but would probably not breed again (he proved right on all counts). I was advised to simply spray the injury with iodine solution daily. After about two weeks the scab fell off and revealed healthy tissue. He had drainage for about a month after. I continued to spray him with both iodine solution and fly spray to prevent infection. Lesson number three…USE ANTIBIOTIC SPRAY NOT OINTMENT. The ointment is greasy and holds dirt and straw on the wound unless you are able to wrap it, and in this case we couldn’t. Being water-based, the iodine spray kills bacteria and evaporates leaving the wound clean and dry.
What happened? The vet thought it was from groin hair wrapping around the shaft. My grandma (butcher for 40 years) thought it was from long grasses doing the same thing. After much research on this sensitive topic, and not finding much at all about bull health, I discovered a chat room where farmers were discussing broken bulls (and weeping about their poor guys). Apparently bulls have cartilage in the shaft. If anything goes wrong during the amorous moment, the cartilage can snap and rupture blood vessels which then cut off circulation to the entire shaft. Lesson number four…DON’T PUT BULLS OUT BEFORE THEY ARE MATURE. I figure my little guy was too young and too short to be with the ladies (even though he was about 14 months old). My cows are on the tall end of mini.
I wasn’t able to find very much literature at all about “broken bulls” but apparently it is a fairly common injury. I did learn that they usually heal just fine and about 60% of them are able to return to work with the ladies. After 6 months with two lovely heifers, it was clear that little Joe had the interest but not the ability to continue working. In order to salvage his genetics, I plan to have him collected and take a class on Artificial Insemination so that I can synchronize my girls and have more predictability about calving dates. Little Joe will go to a “new home” and my customers will have some little white packages to pick up at the butcher soon. Now the girls are crushing on their new beau Jeremiah and I’m looking forward to learning more from my herd this year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.