D. E. Larsen, DVM
Sandy went with me on this late afternoon call to Lacomb. With the kids visiting our parents, we had planned to stop for dinner on the way home.
I leaned against the rail of the log corral. On the far side of the corral stood this evening’s patient, a Scottish Highlander cow, with a long set of horns. She was eyeing me as carefully as I was her.
Then she charged, and she covered the ground across the corral with surprising speed. I stepped back from the rail just before she struck the fence and swept her horns through the slates, side to side.
“I told you she was mean,” Jean said. “We are hoping that dehorning her will help to calm her down.”
“I see what you mean,” I said. “Dehorning her will remove those weapons, but she might still be dangerous to have around. Sometimes you are better off to send these cows down the road.”
“She gives us a nice calf every year,” Jean said. “These cows are small and really are not profitable beef animals. They are mostly just pets.”
“If you keep a cow with this kind of behavior, 5 years from now, you are going to have four of them to deal with,” I said. “Behavior is pretty heritable, like mother, like daughter.”
“Will, to start with, let’s get those horns off,” Jean said. “Is that something you can do?”
“It would be a lot easier, and cheaper, if you had a squeeze chute,” I said. “But I can probably get it done. I will have to get a couple of ropes on her and cross tie her to get close enough to restrain her head. If I can do that, the rest is easy.”
The cow stayed against the far fence in the corral now. I walked around to her side of the corral. I jumped as she again butted the rails and slashed at me with her horns. When she backed up a couple of steps, I dropped a lariat loop over her head and took a quick dally on the nearest post. Her first reaction was to run. I held tight when she hit the end of the rope. Then she gave me enough slack so I could get the dally tied on the post. I moved around the corner and tried to get her to come up to the fence. No way, she stood at the end of the rope, as distant from me as she could get.
I moved back to my original position with Jean and Sandy. The cow moved back to her place near the post where the rope was tied.
“I guess if I’m going to get another rope on her, I am going to have to crawl over the fence,” I said.
“You be careful,” Sandy said. “I don’t like the way she is acting.”
“Yes, I wouldn’t trust her at all,” Jean said.
I crawled up to the top of the fence, hoping to entice her to move closer to me. I threw a loop at her from this position, but it fell short. After recoiling me lariat, I crawled down into the corral.
She watched me closely as if measuring me up or measuring how much rope she had to play with. I took a couple of steps toward her. She bellowed and charged.
The charge took me by surprise. I thought I knew cows pretty well, and I was expecting her to move away once I was on the ground in the corral. But here she came, at full speed.
I knew I didn’t have time to turn and run, so I backed up quickly. My back hit the fence. Both Sandy and Jean were too excited to scream. Her charge was almost to me, but then she hit the end of her rope. She slashed her horns back and forth, the tips coming only inches from my chest. I waited for a second to allow my breathing to quiet, then I dropped the loop over her head.
With both ropes her now, I could cross tie her in the far corner of the corral. Once I had her cross-tied, I grabbed her with my nose tongs and tied her short.
The dehorning was almost a pleasure at this point. I gave some thought to doing it without anesthesia, but that would be taking advantage of my position to get back at her. I clipped the hair away from the base of her horns and scrubbed the area with Betadine. Then I did nerve blocks on each horn.
After removing both horns with a wire saw, she looked almost like a nice cow. I sprayed the wounds well with antibiotic spray and fly spray, even though we were probably too early for flies. Now all I had to do was to turn her loose.
I had quick-release hondas on both lariats, so they were quickly removed. Now she was only secured by the nose tongs, and she was pulling against them.
Standing on the fence’s bottom rail, I made a quick, coordinated motion to untie the nose tongs and shake them loose from her nose. She took a step back and then charged the fence, knocking me to the ground when she struck the rails, swinging her head, not yet aware that her wicked horns were gone.
Both Sandy and Jean rushed over to help me to my feet.
“Are you okay?” Jean asked. “I told you she was a mean one.”
“I am fine,” I said. “She is not just mean, she is a wicked witch, that is what she is. At least, pretty soon she will learn that her horns are gone. Most of her herd mates have probably been hoping for this day.”
My nerves were almost back to normal as they seated us by a window in the restaurant at Pineway Golf Course.
“I think I deserve a beer before dinner tonight,” I said.