…this is a good story
By Dr. Arn Anderson, DVM
Idioms are defined as a group of words whose meaning when used together cannot be deduced from the individual words. We all remember those sayings we learned as a child; “strong as an ox”, “even a blind hog can find the acorn sometimes”, “ curiosity killed the cat”, “chomping at the bit” and “stuck like glue”. By the time the bull kicked the hoof knife out of my hand the third time all I could remember was the surgery professor in Vet school repeating his mantra; “foot-rot is not foot-rot is not foot-rot”.
Walden had found the old bull limping two weeks ago but had been unable to work him up to a set of pens until yesterday due to the weather and the fact that he had been as busy as a cow’s tail in fly season. Walden really liked the old bull; he was calm, did his job and would seemingly appear out of nowhere in the pasture where cows were in heat. To be honest he had never really been caught in the seven years since he had been bought from a neighbor after appearing in Walden’s heifer pasture and refusing to go home.
The limping had become worse and now the old bull was refusing to put weight on his left rear leg. Visualizing is 50% of diagnosis (another idiom of education). We had put the bull in Walden’s chute, put a rope on his leg and pulled it back. True to form the old bull just stood there. The cause of the lameness became evident fairly quickly. All of us had thrown our diagnosis into the ring. Guesses ranging from roofing nail to foot-rot, to snake bite were tossed around with bravado and confidence. Instead the bottom of the old bull’s hoof was falling off. I used a hoof nipper to remove the damaged sole revealing a large abscess. The smell could gag a goat but I worked to evacuate the hole and open the edges in the hopes that this would allow the infected wound to drain.
I wrapped the hoof and told Walden I would return with a block to place on the other claw. This would allow the 2000-pound bull to walk with more comfort. Walden released the bull and Amie and I returned to the clinic. We found the preformed plastic shoe, the cleaning solution and as luck would have it an empty tube of hoof epoxy. A search of the clinic and the practice trucks produced no results. We called the suppliers and the local feed store without success. I called a collgue and she had a great idea: “Hey I saw a commercial about this glue that will repair anything”. I remembered the commercial with the large primate shuffling onto the scene and the actor glueing the bumper back onto his truck.
Amie and I headed to the hardware store and returned to Walden’s armed with a plastic shoe and two tubes of rapid drying, stick-all epoxy. We assured Walden that this would work. He put the bull back in the chute, roped his leg up and asked if we were waiting on Christmas. I recleaned both claws, rewrapped the abscessed hoof and started to clean the other claw for the shoe. By now the bull’s patience was pretty much gone and every touch of the knife to his hoof was answered with a rapid-fire kick. Not to be outdone by a geriatric, overweight bovine I tightened the rope and handed Amie a sideline to confine the leg. I rasped the hoof and the bull stood like a rock. I cleaned the hoof with a solvent and the bull was as still as a statue. I opened the epoxy and pushed the goo through the mixing tube into the plastic shoe. I was convinced we would be done pretty quick and began singing the praises of the super epoxy.
I applied the shoe to the bull’s foot and the bull exploded, bucking, kicking and sending the shoe sailing over me, Walden and the pipe alley. As it flew through the air our power epoxy rained down in a thick drizzle. Walden tightened his grip on the rope and raised the foot higher. I wiped the sweat from my forehead, ran my hand through my hair and put my hat on the table. I found the shoe and we repeated the entire performance again. This time the catapulted shoe bounced off my right eyebrow and stuck to the post in the alleyway. Three more tries, two tubes of stick tite epoxy and two shoes later we had the shoe firmly attached to the old bull’s claw. I had Amie administer antibiotics and a bolus for pain management and Walden released the bull. We gathered our gear and the empty epoxy tubes and made for the truck.
I noticed that Walden and Amie were trying not to stare. My face felt tight but I wiped my hands on my coveralls and crawled into the driver’s seat and headed home. Pulling onto the Farm-to-Market road I glanced into the rearview and pulled the truck off the road staring at the reflection in the mirror. The hair on the front of my head stood straight up and one side stuck straight out like a bad comb over, shalacked stiff with a light coating of epoxy. My right eyebrow was pulled up at an awkard angle, my left eyelid locked halfway down. My upper lip snarled up and to the right like a third rate Elvis impersonator. I had performed plastic surgery without Botox or a sharp blade. I had an epoxy facial. Back at the clinic I realized I was glued to the front seat. I slid out of my coveralls leaving them attached to the Chevy’s cloth seat and walked inside. I spent the rest of the day trying to hide my varnished hard hair and giving dog vaccines with three out of ten fingers glued together.
Hoof problems and lameness are frequent problems in a beef operation. Dry ground, hard ground, mowed stuble, mud and ice all cause damage to the bovine foot. Lame cattle need prompt attention, diagnosis and treatment: the true meaning of the professor’s idiom. Not all lameness is foot-rot (interdigital dermatitis) but 90% of all lameness is in the foot. A close inspection is really needed to identify the problem and treat the animal. I have pulled nails out of cattle that had been treated for two weeks for foot rot. Lameness can negatively affect weight gain,bull fertility and if left too long a simple infection can destroy a good animal. With lameness the sooner the better for diagnosis and treatment.
The next day a box of hoof epoxy arrived. I got a summer haircut in October removing the varnished locks of grey hair. Over the next two weeks my face returned to normal. It took days to get my fingerprints back and I was only accused once for winking at someone with my glued left eye. We soaked the glued back pocket of the coveralls with acetone to release them from the front seat. Walden’s bull became lame on the other hind leg but Walden treated him on his own with antibiotics from a dart rifle. That’s another story. I’d give a penny for your thoughts on that can of worms.