Veterinary science experienced first hand
Standing before the restless young bull who, though partially blind, could sense their presence, the students held back. They were in an immaculately clean barn separated from the bull by a fence panel as he was guided into a squeeze chute while teacher Perry Mason and the veterinarian, Dr. Karen Sherman, talked about the bull.
Last week, the 10 students visited Oak View Animal Clinic and learned about treating cattle for pink eye.
The vet science class is part of the Career and Technical program at Pea Ridge High School, according to school superintendent Rick Neal, who said the district received a grant this past year that has helped fund the class.
“We’re really excited about the work Perry (Mason) is doing,” Neal said. “The vet science class is a big part of the Career and Technical educational program.”
Students Lexi Carlson, Lindsey Fletcher and Sydney Grantham hope to become veterinarians. Others want to study areas related to veterinary medicine and animal husbandry.
The students gathered around an 18-month-old 1,500-pound Angus bull restrained in a squeeze chute, while Dr. Sherman explained: “This is not just a barn, it’s a hospital.”
“The staff knows it has to be disinfected … bleached … you don’t use the same needle,” she explained. She is careful to not drive her vehicle onto a farm where she may spread disease. She said diseases on a farm can be spread by carrying it on shoes.
“As farms get bigger and the family farm goes away, fence lines are more important,” she said.
Sherman explained that the owner of this young bull vaccinates and tries to deter flies, but a fly can spread pink eye from one farm to another. She said the treatment for saving this bull is expensive, but he is planned to be a breeding bull and sight is essential. If he does go blind, Sherman said, he will go to slaughter. The owner only recoups a portion of the expense in buying him. She cannot use certain antibiotics in
his treatment because they are prohibited in foodgrade animals.
She said she recommends that farmers treat every animal before winter is over because cows can carry pink eye even though they do not exhibit symptoms and it can be passed on to their calves. “Some herds are completely cured by doing the over-winter treatment. Most people don’t realize that,” Sherman said.
“A lot of old farmers will say a cow with pink eye will get better in three weeks with or without medication,” Sherman said. “That’s not true.”
Mason, who owns cattle on a farm in McDonald County, Mo., said his cows don’t have pink eye, but calves do. He realized what Sherman was saying applies to his herd.
As Sherman and her assistant tied the young bull’s head to one side so she could apply antibiotic ointment, the students noted his strength.
“It’s not about how big you are,” Sherman explained to the students. “It’s about working smarter, not stronger.”
Each student was offered an opportunity to touch the bull and see him up close.
“I learned about different medications and what they were used for, along with how pink eye is spread,” said Carlson, a senior. “What I found interesting was that pink eye was more common than I thought originally, and how easily it can spread to other animals.” She hopes to earn a degree in veterinary medicine from Texas A&M.
Fletcher said she enrolled in the vet science class because she would like to be able to have and know how to care for animals.
“I am in vet science because I love to work with animals,” sophomore Jayson Frasier said. “My sister lives on a farm down near Fort Smith, and I love to visit them. I have worked with different animals ranging from rabbits to cattle. Hopefully, after I get out of high school, I plan on moving down there and helping them with the farm. I do plan on going to the College of the Ozarks to be a mechanic but I will get plenty of time working with animals as well.
“I learned a lot about pink eye and different ways to treat it. It was fun to get to see the process that they go through to help that poor bull to get back to good health,” Frasier said.
“What I found interesting was that a 100-pound person can restraint an 18-month-old bull,” Sydney Grantham said. “I learned that you have to keep your work place clean so that all the other animals do not get what the sick animals have. Also, that blind bulls are scary. If they can’t see you in front of them they will plow you over.”
Grantham expressed gratitude to Mason for taking the class and helping them learn about the blind bull, and how to help his eyes not hurt because the sunlight hurts their eyes. The bull has regained part of his vision in his right eye.”
Editor’s note: To be continued next week.
Students from the Vet Science class of the Career and Technical program at Pea Ridge High School experienced care for large animals first hand during a visit to Oak View Animal Clinic thanks to teacher Perry Mason, right, and Dr. Karen Sherman, veterinarian, center.
Pea Ridge High School students Leala Sorrell, Makenna Higgins, Sydney Grantham and Jennell Smith watch as veterinarian Dr. Karen Sherman shows them an ulcer in the eye of an 18-month bull. The students from the veterinary science class at Pea Ridge High School visited Oak View Animal Clinic on a recent field trip.