Coun­try vet

The case of Noddy and Big Ears

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS TR­ISHA FISK

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.”

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