I found my wounded Baby the Saturday before last after searching for him for four days, managed to get a horse trailer to him since he could barely walk, and brought him home. (Reason #979 why I’m so glad all my bovines are pets: Baby loads in a trailer as easily as a horse – easier, actually, as I don’t even use a halter on him.) I called my vet AND HE WAS OUT OF TOWN. Argh.
I didn’t want to give Baby any shots without direction but I wanted – needed – to get working on the massive infection that had swelled up his whole leg. So I got online and read about a charcoal poultice that others had used on wounds, for themselves and their animals. It made sense to me, especially in light of what I know about charcoal from the ambulance – we give it orally in certain poisoning cases as it absorbs (adsorbs?) the toxins – and thought perhaps a charcoal poultice could help draw out the infection. It was certainly worth a shot. Turns out this technique is amazing.
The paste works better if it’s a bit thinner than you would expect to want it – this stuff is like cement in that it looks runnier than it behaves. It’s also easier to apply and stays on longer if it’s not clumpy:
This is Baby’s hoof yesterday. On flickr, I posted a photo of his hoof from ten days ago for those who want to see the progress, which is remarkable. But don’t click if you don’t want to see a horrible wound!
One of the greatest benefits of this technique is that the charcoal layer serves as protection for the wound, keeping dirt out while allowing the wound to breathe and drain. It looks like a thin, neat coat when it’s first applied but over the course of 24 hours it puffs, or plumps, as it sucks out the infection. Then it cracks and falls off in chunks when it’s saturated. These chunks come away with a crisco-frosting-layer of puss coating the backside (there, I’ve just cured you of ever eating a grocery store cake again); gross to write, but great to see when it means your bull is healing. Then I apply a new coating of charcoal and the process continues.
Sometimes, the timing works out perfectly and I can apply the charcoal when he’s lying down. But sometimes he’s standing up when it’s time to put on a new coat, and you can’t tell a bull to lie down like you can with a coyote. It’s essential that he doesn’t move while I’m applying the charcoal so dirt doesn’t get kicked into the wound. Luckily, boys are pretty easy to figure out. I carefully apply the charcoal poultice with my right hand while scratching his balls with my left. He drops his head, his eyes roll back, and he drools a little, and he stands perfectly still. Once the charcoal is on, I have to sit there and continue with this perverse activity so he doesn’t take a step until it dries. You do what you gotta do!
Hunks of love.
That’s what bulls are, to me, at least.
I was cleaning out my hard drive and found this picture from a year ago.
This is Rocky, one of the older bulls on the place. He loves a good scratch and some attention. I lie on him, too, but Baby is the only one I ride.
If you’ve been following my tweets, you know my latest favorite is riding Sir Baby, my black angus bull. I’ve been lying on him for years and one day, not too long ago, he started to get up while I was stretched out on him. In the past, when this happened, I’d slide off him as he got up (or bear down on him and he’d stay lying down). But I decided to stay on and let him get up. And he did, and he just stood there, and I just sat there, and it was nice.
We did this again a few days later and then, one day, I went out to visit the cow crew and Daisy and Sir Baby were eating side by side. I stood between them and with one hand on Baby’s shoulders and the other hand on Daisy’s, I hoisted myself up and swung on to Baby. He stood there and ate for a while and we wandered around a little and he is SO COMFORTABLE. The fat and muscle and warmth and strength and breaths moving in and out…. it’s very different than being on a horse. All those same elements are present with a horse, but the configuration is so different, even the breathing is different. I love being on Baby.
Some day after that, I went out to get a log for my woodstove and saw Baby drinking at the trough. The trough is set under a small slope so I stood above him and glided onto his back. He continued to drink, and then we walked up the bank and around the pasture a for a while.
Now, we’ve both gotten accustomed enough to my being on his back that I can go out in the pasture and hop on him ~ he’s just enough shorter than a horse that I can mount him with a jump from the ground. Though, my first attempt at this was in no way graceful and it took me about three tries to get up on him while he patiently waited for me to get situated. He’s saintly.
I don’t use a saddle or halter or reins or anything, obviously, and we’ve started testing our communication with eachother. He starts walking with two light slaps on the sides of his shoulders (like if you were slapping your thighs), and scratching between his shoulder blades makes him stop. (I have never tapped his sides with my heels as is common with horses.) Soon we’ll play with directions. I have no expectations of riding him to town or anything (I don’t think he’d particularly like town) but who knows. It’s just fun.
I tried to take pictures but my arm needs to be about four feet longer for decent shots; the lounging photo at the top was my attempt to streeeeeetch… Baby was like, “What are you doing up there??” His body extends about five feet beyond the frame (and that’s Fiona at the top of the frame and her slobber on my pant leg).
A happy consequence of having turned all my bovines into pets is that I have been able to doctor them myself. Daisy, Frisco, and Sir Baby have all had separate, major “events” in the past six months ~ left unchecked, I’m sure they would have been fatal conditions for Daisy and Frisco and would have resulted in Sir Baby losing an eye. And, under normal circumstances, treatment would have required a vet and sedation. But since these cattle are used to me climbing on them and laying on them, brushing them and fondling them, I was able to doctor all three myself with no drama, no sedation. Well, with Frisco there’s always a bit of drama but that’s another story.
I took Daisy, Fiona, Frisco, and Sir Baby up the mountain with me this summer, but they didn’t all come at once. Daisy and Fiona loaded easily together in the front compartment of the horse trailer, but getting the two boys in the back was… I should have videoed it. Baby would step in, then, as Frisco was getting in, Baby would turn around and step out. Frisco would lumber in, and just as we were getting Baby back in, Frisco would hop out. Around and around and around. So finally we just loaded Frisco and left Baby with the Special Project cows until Mike had the opportunity to bring him up to me at a later date.
I was so thrilled when Baby made it up to our mountain home but immediately noticed his left eye was bothering him ~ he kept it tightly closed and it was tearing up. Mike blew it off as dust from the trip up but I knew it was more than that. Mike returned to the valley that night, and the next morning, Baby still had his eye closed. I was determined to find, and hopefully fix, the problem, so while Sir Baby was lying down for his mid-morning cud chew, I climbed on top of him and scratched his shoulder blades, rubbed his neck, and moved my hands toward his check.
Baby squeezed his eye closed even tighter as I neared it. I scooched my body up his neck so that I was essentially laying across his head and, with both hands, gently pried his eye open. I saw a flash of something pale and straight – something foreign – before he slammed his eye shut again. I relaxed back on Baby’s shoulders and rubbed him some more, giving him some time, then laid across his head again and opened his eye again. This time, I saw a huge grass seed head poking into his eyeball. Sharp side in.
I let him close his eye and relax a bit as I readied myself for the extraction. After another rubdown session, I planted myself on Baby’s head and pried his eye open once more, using the fingers of one hand and the side of the other hand and, once his eye was open, quickly reached in with my fingertip and thumb and pulled out the giant, treacherous seed. Baby had his eye open by that afternoon, and it had stopped watering and was completely back to normal after two or three days.
I went to visit Sir Baby. He’s with the cows and the other bulls on their spring pasture. It’s gorgeous.
This is the road going in. Mike calls this a road. I call it a truck trail.
It only goes so far, then it’s time to travel a’foot.
This pasture is a couple thousand acres, which we lease from another rancher.
It’s all natural rangeland, untouched by human cultivation methods, no chemical fertilizers, no genetically modified seeds. Just wild Wyoming grass.
Hidden Edens, each more beautiful than the last, lay thick with grass, trees sheltering the creek.
The creek meanders through the land, roiled brown from mountain snowmelt.
This is where they drink!
Another of those ‘I’m-not-from-Wyoming’ bits: I say “creek” and everyone else says “crik.” I once asked Mike how to spell “crik” and he looked at me like you’re not that dumb and said “C-R-E-E-K.” Okaaaay, then.
The cows roam free. Here, there’s no sign of human interference ~ no road noise, no telephone poles, no buildings for as far as the eye can see, in all directions.
I wasn’t sure if I would even see Baby ~ 2000 acres is a lot of land to canvass. But I spotted him easily from afar; it’s not hard to distinguish a bull from a cow even at a distance thanks to the way they posture this time of year, sniffing the air for love.
I saw a hint of pink in his ear and knew it was Baby. He was with a group of cows across the creek, obviously courting one of them. He’s the one on the left.
She likes him!« go back — keep looking »