June 15th…….“DID THE COWS ON YOUR FARM HAVE HORNS? WASN’T THAT DANGEROUS”??
A rip-rompin’ rodeo rolled into our farm’s south driveway that frosty Fall morning!!! Well, o.k., at first my little boy eyes thought it was a rodeo, cause that rolling contraption, hooked up behind our veterinarian’s truck, resembled the holding chute of a cowboy ready to burst out for a ride on an ornery buckin’ bull’s back. Instead, I was about to take in the excitement of watching a farming process that Dad called, “de-horning” of our handsome Holstein bovines. And, for my younger readers of today’s story, a bovine is any animal that has a split hoof and has a tendency to grow horns (among other characteristics).
Our good-looking Norwegian daddy, Russell, was husband to our mother, Clarice. But, did you also know he was a sort of “husband” to our farm, too? Yup, the word “husband” basically means to “manage carefully” and that’s just what our farmer father did as he managed our croplands and, in this case, managed the care of his animals.
With the hectic pace and majority of our harvest time accomplished for the year, Dad could now look to this necessary task of preventative animal husbandry in the form of capturing and dehorning his younger Holsteins. Granted, some farmers chose to allow their animals to grow their horns out to full length, but, the majority of farmers were concerned for a number of reasons and would choose, like our father, to have the horns cut off at a young age to prevent any possible future injuries to ourselves, other animals or even the individual animal itself (by getting their horns caught in a fence, thick brush or busting them off as they ran through tight places, etc.).
In those crisp morning hours, the frost of Fall was not only puffing out from each of our mouths as we talked, but it also puffed out from Dr. Blohm’s truck muffler as he deftly backed up the de-horning chute to the west door of our barn. It was the doorway to our holding pen for the younger livestock that needed to have some trimming done for their own good.
Our Holsteins that day were under the highly capable care of Dr. Henry Jasper Blohm. This dear man was our farming community’s highly respected and dearly loved veterinarian. Having grown up on a farm, himself, he loved God’s animals and had just graduated from an agricultural college in 1942 when Uncle Sam called him to serve as an Army Medic during World War II in the European Theater of Operations. After the war, “Doc” Blohm used the blessings of the “GI Bill” and successfully achieved his Doctoral Degree of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Minnesota in 1952.
Over years of experience, it was found that when it came to de-horning, the younger the animal, the better. Mainly for the factors that it would be less traumatic; both for the easier healing recovery of the younger animal and for the workers involved, since it was easier handling a smaller creature, rather than wrestling with a stronger, bigger Holstein of a more mature growth.
For one thing, on working with a younger animal, the horn bud was not yet fully developed and not yet inter-connected to other sinus tissues. Therefore, the process of pinching, cutting or burning off that small horn bud would not be as traumatic as the more drastic removal of a full length horn of a mature bovine. So, as each animal was herded into the chute that day, the sides of the squeeze chute would be pressed close against the animal’s main body and when his or her head emerged out the end of the chute, the neck clamp was closed tight to hold the youngster in place for whatever method Dr. Blohm chose to employ in removing the “bud” of the horn or the actual grown out horn itself. When completed, our kind Dr. Blohm would apply medications to help in the healing process of what just transpired. It was also common for many farmers, like our dad, to do this de-horning process in the Fall, Winter or very early Spring when intense freezing temperatures had killed off flies that would have pestered the poor animal’s horn wounds during the healing process.
Oftentimes, when necessary, this capture chute fulfilled a multi-faceted role. It was also convenient for installing a nose ring into the nostrils of those males that were to become Dad’s breeding bulls. The purpose of the nose ring served the expediency of allowing a farmer to attach a snap-clip with a rope to the nose ring. That attached rope was then used for leading the bull around the farm, or, tethering the bull to keep him in place because no animal, in his right mind, wanted to feel the pain of that ring being pulled out of his slobbery snout. 😉
Of course, while in that holding chute, there were the times when Dad decided that some of his young Holstein boys, would not be boys any more. It was a process called castration and, after the surgical removal of certain organs, that former boy was now called a steer!!! 😉 Such were the farming adventures to observe and learn from for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.