Wednesday, July 25, 2007

County Fair

On Monday I certainly got a unique experience: I was invited to participate in the vet checks at the county fair! I helped checking in the dairy cattle. The basic idea is that each animal needs to be checked and certified free of signs of infectious disease. Things that we look for in cattle include pinkeye, footrot, ringworm, warts and respiratory disease. Sounds easy, huh? You just need to pull the cattle that have lesions on their skin or a cough, right?

Well, it isn't quite that easy, as I found out. Sure, there may be some lesions on the skin of a calf, but what is the cause? Is it a patch of hair that was rubbed off in the trailer? Is it a scar from dehorning? Or is it a wart that was cut off? It can be very hard to tell! And the exhibitors certainly aren't helpful. They are there to show and to win. They are not there to be honest with the vet who has the power to summarily toss their cattle back into the trailer and order them out of the fairgrounds.

Case in point: I started to look over a Holstein calf and knew there was going to be some problems. The calf came off of the trailer with long tendrils of white mucous hanging from her nose and a distinct, hacking cough. Knowing as I looked over her that I was going to dismiss her, I stalled for time. I called over the other, much more experienced vet to take a look at the calf, telling her my opinion. She agreed. The owner was certainly not amused. A younger guy, but much taller than me, he approached so he was towering over me.

"What, you are sending me home because of a snotty nose?"

"Yup," was my very articulate reply.

He was flaming mad, and that much was obvious. However, I had the last say and was not going to back down. It certainly helped to have the other vet there backing me up as well. There were several other cattle that were dismissed, including two for warts that tried to come back through after spending some time in the parking lot frantically cutting the warts off. Yes, they were sent right back out.

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that everyone was sneaky and conniving, trying to get diseased cattle by us. The contrary was true. The vast majority of the animals looked fantastic, the sleek Holsteins, Jerseys, Ayrshires, Guernseys and Brown Swiss heifers and cows models of health. And most of the handlers were helpful and skilled, answering questions if not with complete openness, at least with civility. There were certainly a fair few of clearly nervous folks, scared that I would find something on their cattle. But about 95% of them had nothing to fear, from me at least. If they got something passed me, I don't know about it. I certainly did my best to catch the most obvious problems, but I know I likely missed something.

It was certainly a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again next year, if they need me. On Friday I will be going back to do the vet checks on the "pet show" animals. I will be looking for much of the same problems in them as in the cattle, so it should be interesting!

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