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Pill size matters

From the Farm

November 9, 2012
By Kerry Hoffman , The Journal

When ever you're feeling sick and the doc has prescribed pills the size of an ice cube, you should consider yourself lucky to be a human.

A pill that size is miniscule compared to the size of a bolus we give to the cows when they are stressed or under the weather.

Just in case you are wondering what a bolus is, I took it upon myself to look up the definition in my hard-cover dictionary. According to Webster, it's "a large pill." I imagine Mr. Webster to be a fairly straight-laced person with a sense of humor about the size of a dime.

Article Photos

Kerry Hoffman

So you can take the "large pill" statement to heart; it's huge.

This particular cow bolus, to which I am referring, is a big tube of calcium. It's not even a tube, because it's solid. If I had to take this much medication, I would have a legitimate bloat complaint.

Naturally, when a cow has a calf, she is under a ton of stress.

According to information I have been provided, of all the diseases affecting dairy cattle, a whopping 8 percent of them occur after giving birth.

I will agree with that. In my opinion, each cow should be closely monitored after calving.

But, the problem that calls for the bolus of calcium really is caused by a nutritional need during the time the cow is on vacation before she has her calf. Cows get to lie around in a barn or out on the pasture and relax before becoming a mother. Talk about a life of leisure. I remember when I was 7-months pregnant; I was out building a wooden gym set. Steve was way too busy.

After a cow gives birth, it is very important to monitor her closely, especially the first 72 hours. That's when a person starts to notice the cow acting a bit quirky.

When we move a cow from the calving barn into the milking barn, we watch for one specific issue - her walking gait.

If she starts to walk like a drunken person leaving the bar, we know she had too much to drink the night before.

Just kidding. We know she is low on calcium, which we refer to as milk fever. And I am not referring to the 1970s style of disco fever.

Because the calcium she did have in her body is now being used in the milk she is producing, her nutritional needs in calcium are not being met.

I don't know what calcium does within her system that a shortage of it would make her stumble and possibly slur her speech, if she could talk.

As treatment we would administer a bottle of calcium in liquid form intravenously. Learning that specific procedure takes a lot of practice. When administering the calcium we \also have to closely monitor the cow's heart rate, because if it was entering the blood stream too fast, the heart beat would become irregular.

I have heard of cows falling over dead from a heart attack while being giving IV calcium.

These new boluses are supposed given to the cow orally, provided you have the proper gun.

Sounds intimidating, doesn't it?

A bolus gun is a big pill holder that allows you to insert the pill at the back of the cow's throat. You just slide it in along the side of the mouth and pull the trigger. Bam.

Hopefully, giving these monster pills to the cows will eliminate the need for us to administer an IV to a cow suffering from milk fever.

I swear I heard the cows are cheering, "Hooray!"

I would too if I the option of taking a pill instead of getting stuck with a needle in my neck.



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