I have written on this subject before but these are new simple yet effective ideas I have noticed in my practice area in the last while. They are all practical and cost little or no money. They may minimize time or labour, keep you safer or allow for proper handling of biologicals.
Many vaccines are now given in the fall and even winter of the year in preg-checking time. With our winters being what they are, we often need some mechanism to keep product from freezing. Warming product before it goes into the cow at 39C is fine but freezing is a definite no-no.
A producer in our area has solved the problem – a cord and light bulb (100-250 watts) hung in an old-style upright fridge. With multiple shelves the products can be spread out and extra stored. The large handle on the door allows easy access and a fridge is well insulated. It is also great with the light for keeping product cooler in the summer. This producer experimented and found a heat lamp too warm as it melted some of the plastic shelves, so you have to experiment and on warmer days keep the product down a shelf or two.
If you don’t have an expired fridge all the dumps have many to choose from.
If away from power use the converters to convert 12 volt to 120 power. I use a converter to run my microscope during semen testing or in emergencies my clippers to prepare for C-sections when no power is available. You are also prepared in case there is a power outage.
The converter can be used to run a safely positioned heat lamp inside your vehicle. This keeps drugs warm and alleviates running a vehicle burning expensive gas.
Battery blankets and paintball guns
Another slick idea was keeping an old wrap-around battery warmer. When plugged in and laid flat it provides a warm surface for filled syringes etc. If it gets too warm, cover with a towel.
I always keep the disposable chemical hand warmers around and have had the person injecting hold them around the filled syringes and needle to prevent freezing. If you freeze product it is useless so take the necessary steps to get this valuable management tool into your animals in good condition. Otherwise all the hard work is wasted.
Paintball guns can be used to mark animals to be pulled for treatment by others. If by yourself they can be used to spur on the stragglers, or even as protection. The shot can be directed at a charging cow or be used to break up fighting bulls. Shots can be fired in rapid succession, colours can be varied and the dye is water soluble. They can leave welts on people but my guess this would be minimal on cattle’s thick hides, so bruising at slaughter would be minimal.
Alternative uses for tools
There are many commercially made soft toolboxes with side pockets which are ideal for carrying your medical supplies around.
In spring attach tie-down rubbers to your calf sled to keep slippery active calves secured for the trip to the barn. Make sure the tow cord is long enough to keep you safely away from an aggressive cow.
Caps with miner’s lights or strong LED lights attached make checking easier at night and free up your hands for other things.
I use booster cable clamps attached to tarp rubbers mounted on the maternity pen as a device to hold the tail out of the way while you are examining a calving cow. This is especially critical if by yourself at calving, and helps keep the cow cleaner. I insist on using this method or having the tail tied out of the way for C-sections. But don’t forget to untie the tail or you may leave it on the fence. The beauty of the booster clamps is if you do inadvertently release the cow, only a few tail hairs are left behind.
Another useful piece of hardware is a portable garden sprayer. If your chute is not close to a running water supply these are great for irrigating wounds or providing hydrotherapy to swollen areas such as swollen sheaths on bulls. The wand can be directed right into the problem area and if you need more water simply refill it.
With today’s ever-decreasing labour supply on the farm, make use of pulley systems or ropes to control sorting gates. Some with hydraulic chutes have even built in extra valves with cylinders controlling these gates. Simple fixes like these save countless hours of labour and speed up processing.
Many producers have utilized wooden alleys and constructed safe palpation cages by constructing sturdy doors with either rod or pipe slides which lock. These can be very safe and constructed with materials already on the farm. You don’t always need the commercially made palpation cage.
All the above “ideas” are not my own but garnered from producers looking to do a better job and minimize labour. Hopefully some of them may find a place on your farm.