Wednesday, April 20, 2011


This picture with May and Nougat turned out a lot cuter than the photos of Geranium's oozing horn, so I thought I would just say how big our babies are! Nougat was the first baby born on the farm, and now she is bred to kid in July, and little May, born May 1st of last year, has grown big enough to have her own collar now. She looks so grown up! We are still waiting on this year's babies to be born (any day now we might have pictures of little lambs).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cow with Fly Strike and Infection after De-horning

I apologize if this post is disgusting. The only reason I am posting about it is because when I looked up "Cows fly strike de-horning" and "Cows infection after de-horning" barely anything came up that was useful. There was certainly nothing about how to treat the situation without antibiotics and pyrethrin.

This was certainly a situation we had created. Although it perhaps violates some laws of Devons to de-horn them (in all the pictures they always have horns), it really had to be done. It wasn't just the way Geranium would run with them pointed four inches from your back when you had a bucket, or the way that she charged at me one day, or how she savaged the hay bale with them. Mostly it was because her attitude with them was just awful. There was just no way I could have milked her every day by myself when Ethan was out of town.

We consulted a vet to make sure it was not going to be too stressful this time of year and during her pregnancy and had her come out for the procedure. We know a guy who just puts them in the head gate and saws the horns off with a wood saw, but this wasn't something we were comfortable with. So the vet came out and even numbed her so it wouldn't hurt. The first one was fairly traumatic for her, and the second one bled quite a lot, but the vet said it was fine. She said not to put anything on it and that it should heal in about two weeks.

It was healing well, and I didn't feel I needed to do anything to help it along until a week later when we got a torrential rain. That afternoon when I went out to do the chores Geranium didn't come running over as enthusiastically as usual. When she got about 10 feet away I smelled an awful smell. When she turned her head I saw the maggots all crawling around and my heart just sunk, because this was what we had been afraid of. It was the beginning of a very disgusting week. We had lost a chicken to fly strike a couple of years ago, and I was so haunted by the experience I looked up everything I could to find out about it so it would never happen again. The result was that I was fairly well-informed about what to do. I didn't have a phone to call the vet or anything, so I immediately got some saline mixed up and waited until Ethan arrived and we could call the vet. The vet didn't answer the phone, so we went out and squirted every last maggot we possibly could out of her head with the saline and a drencher (really, really gross, by the way, especially since she kept shaking her head and spraying us with maggots). Then we called the vet's emergency number and talked to a different vet who had barely even heard of fly strike and had to look it up. She said not to worry, they were just eating necrotic tissue and that we had already done everything the vet could recommend. The only other thing they would do is spray her head down with pyrethrin.

Day 2: I had looked up pyrethrin and was not happy with what I read about it. When we went out the second day, there were some very large maggots still inside the hole of her horn that we flushed out. I think they were the little ones that we had missed and had grown horribly large in just a few hours (their eggs can hatch in under 8 hours in the right conditions and they grow unbelievably fast). I smeared on an ointment I had made from zinc oxide, coconut oil, rosemary essential oil and grapefruit essential oil. I have had luck with this ointment repelling flies from other wounds--particularly udder wounds that had little gnats eating at it that kept it from healing. I thought it would perhaps be more effective than the pyrethrin anyway, since it was oil based and wouldn't wash off easily in the rain, which had started this whole situation. The rosemary oil I added because rosemary was used to keep flies from meat, and the grapefruit was because it is very strong smelling. The maggots secret an enzyme that breaks down the proteins and creates a horrible smell that draws more and more flies in to lay eggs, so covering that up is important.

Day 3: There were no maggots in the affected wound on this day, although I found only a few very large ones on the other side, but no new tiny ones (which are much harder to get off). I put the zinc ointment on both sides this time. The side that had gotten the most of the fly strike now had very thick, smelly yellow mucus or pus pouring out of it. We flushed it again with saline and then called the vet, who strongly recommended antibiotics at this point. Geranium was still eating and acting fine, and I was worried about the antibiotics after reading Pat Colby's section about it where the vet killed her entire goat herd with them. I spoke to my friend of Ochwilla Hill Farm and she told me that her vet would never give antibiotics to a cow at that stage of pregnancy, because it could damage the calf. So we had to find an alternative.
Day 4: No maggots at all this time, but the one side was looking worse than ever. When I looked inside her sinus, all I could see was the thick yellow stuff. This day I added goldenseal tincture to the saline and we flushed it out very well, tipping her head to the side to let it drain out. Then I packed both the horns with Manuka honey and bound it up to keep it all in, smearing the outside with the zinc ointment (the smell was still very bad).

Day 5: The bandage stayed on, and when we removed it the next day it looked significantly better. The honey seemed to have drawn all the infection out, because a lot of yellow stuff poured out when I took off the bandage, but inside her head was clear and I could see it was beginning to heal and close up. I flushed it with goldenseal and saline again, packed new honey in and bound it up. The nasty infected smell was gone, and it just smelled like a wound. I gave her a big dose of fermented cod liver oil and extra raw apple cider vinegar in her water.

Day 6: She managed to rip the bandage off this day, but it was almost for the better, because it dried out the wound nicely. There was still some yellow stuff, but when I flushed it out again with the saline and goldenseal the water ran out her nose for the first time (I think it had been too clogged before). I packed it with honey but didn't bandage it. We gave her another dose of cod liver oil.
Day 7: Both the horns seemed to be healing very well. There was only the tiniest bit of yellow stuff on the one horn. This was the last day we flushed it out. I put the honey on it again.

After this it has gotten better and better. On the 7th evening it rained again, but that was almost good because it cleaned the area up. There was still mucus on both sides, but on the one side it was clear and on the other side a much clearer yellow.

Thank goodness for the herbs and the healing honey.