The case of Noddy and Big Ears
The month was hot and dry. Day after day of glorious weather tacked onto the end of the summer but unfortunately not many of us appreciated it. In fact anyone rural was fed up with the clear blue days. We really needed rain.
The hot dusty conditions were starting to cause problems too, and Josh Gordon’s call was a case in point.
The Gordons weren’t really farmers. They had about 16ha, but most of that was in regenerated bush. They were lifestyle landowners for sure, refugees from commuter traffic in Auckland.
Josh had done a bit of work for old Jim Radcliff and been paid for it in calves. Weaners, two of them, just separated from their mothers. The rest of the mob would be going to the autumn weaner sales.
They were a nice pair of honey-coloured Charolais-cross calves. Radcliff liked a Charolais bull as a terminal sire, so these two would grow big and beefy. If only the grass would grow.
But one of Josh’s animals was looking seedy. It had an ear hanging from the side of its head like a giant squash. The Gordon kids had named them Noddy and Big Ears.
“I think this one might have had the beginnings of a problem right from when we first got him,” Josh indicated the swollen appendage. “That was how he got the name. We just assumed it would come right.”
The Vet took one look and saw infection ballooning the ear around the tag site.
“It’s enough to put you off getting your ears pierced for sure,” he said. “We’ll have to remove the tag, open the ear up a bit to drain, then give him a short burst of antibiotics. He should come right.”
The two calves were relatively quiet for beef cattle.
“They have gotten used to getting cabbage leaves and titbits out of the vege garden,” said Josh. “And I prune a few branches off the willow trees to help them along. I don’t want them to lose condition. The whole object of the exercise is to fatten the beggars.”
There was no head bail available so the Vet pushed Noddy into a little crush pen first, then he got Big Ears to follow. He jammed the two tight together with a bar through the rails behind them.
“If we can keep Big Ears squashed up, with his head over his mate’s back, he won’t be able to get it down where I can’t reach.”
Sure enough, the steer was soon safely immobilised.
“Let’s have a go with your garden
pruners,” said the Vet. Garden pruners are ideal for snipping an old tag out. Thick pus and blood followed.
“We will open it up a bit more, to make sure we get all that muck out.”
A quick cut with a scalpel and a squeeze and the ear was soon looking a more normal size. The calf looked happier too, with the pressure released. After a jab of antibiotic, the job was done.
“One long acting shot should do it, but keep an eye on things. If it doesn’t start healing pretty quick we might have to give him a longer course. Then you had better talk to NAIT about getting a replacement tag.”
“But the tag was the problem,” said Josh. “I don’t want to put another one in there, I know which calf is which. NAIT just sounds like bureaucratic bullshit to me. We came up here to get away from that.”
“Well bureaucrats aren’t my favourite people either,” said the Vet. “But this is about keeping Northland TB free and that is something really worth protecting. We need to be able to track the movement of animals. We want to know where every animal has come from.
“And believe me there are some unscrupulous bastards out there. There are cases of dairy herds being amalgamated down the line and sold on as coming from clear regions. There are some crook farmers out there and crook agents.”
The NAIT tag system is designed to stop people being able to bring cattle in from infected areas. It also means in the event of an outbreak, the powers that be can quickly work out which property the infected animals have come from or been in contact with.
“It’s all about identifying the source of any problem and stopping any spread pronto,” said the Vet. “It might seem like a bit of palaver to you. But it’s worth it!” “But the tags caused all this trouble.” “Yeah, but they don’t usually. Old Jim Radcliff is usually onto it a bit sooner than this. I know his wife has had a bit of a stroke. He’s probably got other stuff on his mind just now and the calves didn’t get marked as early as usual. They have to be tagged by six months old or before they move off the farm. Jim is just running to catch up and have them ready for the weaner sales. I haven’t heard from him, so I guess the rest of the mob is okay. Old Big Ears here was just unlucky.”
“Ok,” Josh sighed. “So I have to get hold of NAIT?”
“Yep, but it’s easy, they have a website, all the info is there – www.nait.co.nz – you register your farm and each animal, you can do it all online. Jim will have registered them and should have logged in that he was sending these animals to you. But if he hasn’t done that yet, you can log them in as received and you can set about getting a replacement tag for this one. We can get it through the vet clinic for you.
“So everything has to be tagged,” Josh asked. “Even on little outfits like mine?”
“Yes, everybody needs to take this on board. Big farms, little farms, dairy or beef, calf rearers, and even lifestyle holders like you guys. The only animals that don’t need to be tagged are bobby calves or animals that are considered too dangerous to tag. But they have to be going straight to the works.”
At this point Noddy turned to look at Josh and calmly accepted a face rub. The Vet smiled.
“These two most definitely do not qualify for dangerous.”