Pippie’s Hoof-icure

Pippie has been limping for a few weeks now. She and her 3 month old calf, Annie, were with the main herd all of the way out in the farthest field, 3 fields away from the working area. Last week, we moved the herd all of the way back to the front field and separated four problem cows from the herd (Separating Cows). Once we safely added Pippie and Annie to the heifer herd in the Front field, I called Dr. Amanda and scheduled a farm visit to diagnose Pippie’s limp.

Beforehand, I did some research on my own and found that there could be 3 probable reasons for a cow to a limp:

  • a foreign object stuck in her hoof
  • hoof rot
  • a stifle injury or leg joint swelling

After examining her hoof in the field and not seeing any foreign object, I mostly ruled out something stuck in her hoof. From my research, although most bovine limping is caused by a foot problem, either a stifle injury or upper leg joint swelling would be very serious for Pippie. Unless the problem is not very severe and easily responds to antibiotics, the ending is a trip in the trailer to auction. With a young calf still needing nursed for a few more months, Pippie had to see the vet so I would have a better understanding of the problem.

Dr Amanda arrived with her bovine tilt table in tow. She backed up our chute and head gate, aligning the tilt table to the left side. This was going to be interesting!

Bovine Tilt Table
Setting up the Tilt table for Pippie

The tilt table extends the chute so the cow walks through our chute and then right into the tilt table. Pippie is so tame (she loves a good neck scratch and pat) that even with her calf waiting in the crowding pen, she confidently walked through the alleyway, through our chute and into the tilt table. Dr. Amanda watched Pippie walk and saw how she held her hoof off of the ground and the way she hitched her hip each step. Her preliminary diagnosis was a foot issue and not a stifle injury – good news!

Pippie waiting for the palpation door to be opened so she could walk through our chute
Through the chute …
and into the tilt table.

With Pippie securely inside, Dr Amanda locked the gate and strapped her in. The look on Pippie’s face seems like she is thinking, “Well, this is something new!”.

The table rotates clockwise a quarter turn and Pippie finds herself in a position that she has never experienced before, laying on her side, about three feet off of the ground. With chains securing each of Pippie’s legs, Dr. Amanda begins her examination.

After the ride to horizontal, Pippie becomes a bit more concerned about this whole new adventure. Her eyes were open wide with surprise but she never really struggles and only lets out a moo when she catches a glimpse of Annie, pacing in the background.

There is swelling in her injured hoof, her ankle and a bit up towards the knee. Dr Amanda shows me the swollen areas and we both can smell the foul odor coming from the hoof, clearly indicating hoof rot. Having Pippie so far away from the working area delayed treatment but hopefully we will get it dealt with in time to get the rot under control. The tilt table is perfect for this type of examine, not to mention that this was the first time that I have seen a cow’s udder from this perspective.

With the examination and diagnosis for the limp completed, Dr Amanda plugs in the grinder and trims all of Pippie’s hooves, a bovine hoofi-cure. With bits of hoof flying all around, Pippie’s feet have never looked better.

Pippie getting her hoofs ground and shaped

The treatment for the hoof rot is a slow acting antibiotic, Exceed. Interestingly, this medication is injected into the cow’s ear. In case the cow’s condition worsens and she becomes unable to easily walk, the medicine moves out of her system and the cow can be taken to market reasonably quickly, after just 15 days. And since the injection goes into the ear, any site damage is irrelevant as the ears are not used. We are all fairly optimistic that Pippie will not have this fate.

Dr Amanda injects Pippie with antibiotic

And now for the rotating dismount! The tilt table rotates counter clockwise to set Pippie back on her feet.

With a look of stunned disbelief at what just occurred, Pippie regaines her composure and exits the tilt table.

Annie watches closely from the crowding pen, but is also keeping her distance in case she might be next.

Pippie, now with beautiful hooves and hopefully with the infection under control, takes one last look at the contraption she just survived. If cows can communicate, I am sure she will be telling tales in the field to the herd later in the evening.

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