Cow Lesson: Calf Injections and Techniques to Ponder

Hello dear friends!  Today’s blog is about my first experience with subcutaneous injections.  First, I want to briefly explain how I feel about any type of activity involving a syringe.  I avoid it at all costs and must implement deep breathing and self-counseling to avoid full blown panic attacks.  This phobia is so strong that during the paramedic perquisite classes, they informed us that we had to administer IVs to each other.  I promptly dropped out of the program.  Bye Felicia.

Now that we have that established, on to the adventure!  Cattle Daddy took off on a hunting trip, leaving me to man the farm alone.  No biggie, I got this!  Later in the week, while hangin’ with my heifers, I notice that one of my dears has a mass under his jaw.  We had this happen to someone else a few months ago and we almost lost him.  Feeling instant cow-mom panic, I text Cattle Daddy.  He informs me that I need to treat him asap since the close call with the other baby.  With a couple of subcutaneous injections.  Whoa, man…now let’s be reasonable.  This is crazy talk.

(flash-back to Cattle Daddy’s first injection) We had a calf get sick a while back and we had to give him an intravenous injection.  Like…in his jugular.  Scenes of squirting blood racing through my mind.  I cried like a baby, convinced we were killing the poor guy.  Cattle Daddy was so distracted by my hysteria that he could barely give the shot.  It was a bad day, to say the least.  Back to the present situation…

I’m supposed to do administer injections…for the first time…BY MYSELF???  Commence total panic attack.  Switch to self-motivating speech.  I can do this (pacing frantically, muttering in hysteria) I’m a farmer.  Time to put the big girl pants on.  Breathe.  Commence anxiety attack.

In desperation to find help, I text our BFF neighbors who are experienced cattle farmers…no response.  I check YouTube for instructional videos and come across “injection mistakes” which I must watch like a bad car wreck.  This, of course, triggers more panic attacks and a confirmation that I will kill this poor calf if I proceed.

Cattle Daddy calls and is coaching me via Bluetooth.  I try to convince him to wait until tomorrow so I can call the vet and do this under close supervision – and she can save him from my mistakes.  He convinces me I need to help the poor guy now.  (I’m still getting used to this not calling the vet for everything, as I am an overprotective dog parent.)  So here we go…(desperate glance for text response from neighbors – nothing).

I gather the shot administering gun, the plastic syringe, and the meds.  Don’t ask me what exactly they are, I’m just trying to get through this, thank you.  This process requires some yoga-like poses as I try to fill the needles and get rid of air bubbles.  As I’m trying to get the air bubbles out, I’m envisioning causing some horrible death by injecting the guy with air.  Needles filled with a side of panic.  Small accomplishment.

Cattle Daddy asks me if I have the calf isolated yet.  No!  I’m still in the house having panic attacks and pacing!  Sheesh!  Such demands!  I was fresh out of reasons to delay any long.  I give a last ditch effort to wait for the vet without success.  Damn.  I gather my needles, some bribery bread, some courage and head to the barn muttering another motivational speech to myself.

I get out to the pasture and, of course, my poor baby follows me, all trusting and loving while I’m overcome with guilt at what I’m about to do.  Cattle Daddy, still in my ear, reassures that I’m helping him.  Reassurance not working.  I get him into the calf pen and lay out the torturous instruments.  Now, the calf pen is a circle of cattle gates at the front of the pasture, with a big spotlight on the barn.  My little guy and I are in the center, with an overturned bucket holding the instruments.  The entire herd is gathered around the pen watching like bull riding spectators.  Not comforting.  I can feel their accusing stares.

Cattle Daddy says walk on up to him, push on his back and he’ll go to his knees, then lay down.  Umm, no…I press on his back and he darts away.  Fail.  I think, hey, when I want my dogs to lay down I just hug their knees and down they go!  I try this maneuver.  Epic Fail.  I can’t wrap my arms all the way around all four legs.  He’s a lot bigger than a Weimaraner.  So here I am, on my knees, pulling on a front leg and a back leg like levers trying to find a method that works.  He finally figures it’s safer to lay down then to continue standing.

Here we are, he’s on his side and I straddle him.  Cattle Daddy says just grab a chunk of neck muscle and shoot him up.  Yea.  Sure.  It’s the end of winter, he has no neck fat and what’s under his neck fat?  His jugular!  The YouTube video comes back to me in full color and another panic attack ensues.  Cattle Daddy begins another motivational speech and I finally just do it.  I stick him with the injection gun and he starts mooing like he’s dying!  There are meds oozing everywhere and I’m convinced I’m killing him!  Surely nothing is being injected and this is all for naught!  He’s going to die and it’s all my fault!!

The injection gun is finally empty.  I’m still on him and I’m hugging and rubbing the poor baby, apologizing to no end.  I tell Cattle Daddy that meds went everywhere but in the calf.  He tells me he planned a larger dose expecting the oozing (aka rookie administration).  Phew, good call.  I’m mildly relieved it’s over and no one has died.

Just as we both calm down; Cattle Daddy says I must inject him on the other side of his neck.  Ugh!  But I’m sitting on him…he’s lying on his side…how…?  I revert to dog techniques once again.  I get off him, on my knees next to him and grab his knees and flip – hooves in the air, over to the other side with all my weight and end up falling over him.  Success!


We are both covered in mud and cow patties.

I repeat the injection process with the plastic syringe, which was MUCH easier (why didn’t we start with this one?).  No death-mooing happened.  I was done!  I did it!!!  I jump off him and grab my reward bread and he’s not up yet.  He’s just lying there!  I killed him!  I fall on my knees to offer the bread and check for signs of life.  He seems interested now and gets up, but then he backs away!  Away from me and the bread!  OMG he hates me now!!  I still have Cattle Daddy in my ear and he finds this amusing.  In the background, apparently the rest of the hunting camp finds this amusing.  I do not.  Cattle Daddy expresses his desire to install video at the barn to capture these shenanigans.  Again, not amused.

I return to my calf to beg for forgiveness and he finally takes the bread.  I explain to him how this was in his best interest and we have a few bonding moments.  I give him a bucket of grain just to make sure he still loves me and all is forgiven.  I take a moment to bask in my success and contemplate taking some veterinary classes.

Then my phone dings with a text from the neighbors…”what’s up?”  Gahhhh!

Update:  The calf ended up with another dose after Cattle Daddy returned home.  Our baby was healthy and happy within a couple of weeks!

I hope you have enjoyed this adventure!  Until next time, my dear friends!!







One Comment on “Cow Lesson: Calf Injections and Techniques to Ponder

  1. I was on that hunting trip with “cattle daddy” and the descriptions he was giving while you were doing this. Rest assured no one outside of our little group heard the story….till the next truck ride anyway!


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