On the Edge of Common Sense
Baxter Black, DVM
“Age-in’ a cow is ‘bout the thing I hate most. Seems like they can tell the instant you cross the line into the strike zone.”
We all nodded sympathetically with Jeff’s pronouncement. Each cowman in the circle of chairs could remember a blow to the ribs that ruined his day.
“Well your doin’ it all wrong,” spoke Gary, “Mouthin’em is easy. Just check ‘em after you feed in the evenin’. Timing is critical. Wait till the sun is setting low and drive along the west side of the fence or feedbunk. They’ll look up to check you out, all of ‘em chompin’ and chewin’ and curious. If you’ve planned it right the sun will light up their dentures like you had a spotlight!”
‘Such wisdom,’ I thought as I sat in this group of Missouri cowmen. It was like sittin’ in with the Supreme Court justices, Solomon on one side, Ginsburg on the other.
“How ‘bout preg checkin’,” I asked. Is there an easy way to do that?”
“Sure,” Gary continued, “When I get an arm inside first thing I do is sort according to how big the calf is.”
“You mean like 30 days along, 90 days along and so forth?” I said.
No,” he answered, “Like squirrel, cat, beagle…”
I looked blank.
“Big as a squirrel, big as a cat, big as a beagle … like that. Lot simpler. And if it’s big as a coon dog you know she’s bred anyway ‘cause by then she’d be showin’ on the outside. On the other hand some just thump ‘em.”
I could see myself as a vet out at some cowman’s place saying, “I won’t be using a plastic sleeve today Mr. Henry. I’ll just be thumpin’em.”
I admit workin’ cows would be easier if you could age and preg check them without grabbin’ their head or plunging up to the armpit. Then Gary told me he could sex the calves before they were born. I realized my vet training had been sorely lacking. Did he sex ’em somehow by smelling the cow’s breath? By tailhead elevation? By bag development, or sonar?
“No,” he said, “Just a lot of feelin’ around. Under the tail, between the legs. ‘Course it helps if the calf is pretty far along.”
“How far along?” I asked like the student I was.
“Oh, say … big as a Miss’sippi channel cat.” ❖