Sunday, 25 March 2012

First Aid on Livestock

By Danelle Stamps at My Total Perspective Vortex

One of the lifestyle changes that we quickly learned living on a farm and having animals is performing our own veterinary care on our livestock. We simply cannot call the vet for every little thing or have them come to the farm to do wound care daily. We do call the vet, but only when it is necessary and often we call to make that determination. 

That meant we had to learn to give shots. This means we manage a pharmaceutical selection in a fridge. This means we have to not be squeamish. 

Knowing this level of animal first aid, having supplies on hand, and maintaining a good relationship with our vet has saved the lives of several animals on our farm.

Last week after shearing the sheep, somehow one of the ewes sliced a tendon on a fence. I went to take naked sheep pictures and found her bleeding and limping.  

So yesterday a friend was curious and asked what this was like so I thought I would post a walk through of the wound care:

First, when any injury happens it is important to clean the injured area, with sheep that means shearing bald around the area. Then they need an antibiotic (penicillin) to ward off infection and a tetanus shot. These guys sleep outside on the ground or in hay and the common tetanus bacteria is found in dirt (not rusty metal, like most believe). 

This is wrap and bandage that has to be daily changed for a while. The cut is just above the joint.

Her niece is in with her. They are 2 weeks apart and are best friends. Sheep are social animals and need a companion or the depression that sets in can hinder healing.

First we remove the old bandage. This stuff is what we call vet wrap, but it is exactly the same thing used on people- a self sticking bandage.  This part seems to cause her more discomfort than any other part of the process.

Notice I have a towel under where I am working. That is to keep hay from getting in the wound while it is exposed.

Chad is in charge of holding her while I do the work on the wound. Keeping her calm and not freaked out keeps us all safe from injury.

This is Ichthammol: hoof treatment, and skin antiseptic goo (Ichthy-goo for short). This gets applied to the wound. Gloves keep things cleaner, but also touching the wound with my bare hands to spread the goo does not appeal to me. You know? I am double gloved so I can slip the goo'd glove off and then still have on a glove to do the next part. 

Then the clean bandage goes on. In this picture you can see the old Ichthy-goo, not blood.  The actual cut, while serious, is actually pretty small.

The new wrap goes on. To get the tension right and not too tight, pull the length out to wrap and then wrap it around. I  took this one twice around the wound, once below the joint and once at the joint. 

And then she's good. It does look like it is healing and she is starting to put weight on it. I might have the vet come out and look at it next week to assess the next step in wound care- leaving it open to air and wrapping at night maybe? Or going more days between changing. Not sure how long we have to use Ichthy-goo either. We are learning that is for sure.

This wound is different than the predator injuries we have dealt with before. It was a clean cut and small. That doesn't mean it isn't serious though. The vet's first assessment was that if we don't get through this she might need amputation or to be put down. We are making this huge effort so we at least save her lamb. Even so, the vet is happy with her progress this week: clean wound and putting pressure on the leg to walk with it.

What we didn't have when we had our first animal related emergency injury was any supplies at all. I called a neighbor at midnight because when Chad hauled 4 injured lambs last year into my kitchen, all bleeding and torn up by a fresh coyote attack I had not a clue what to do or what to use. If I could go back and give the old me a list of basics this would be it:

Vet wrap. Lots of it. AT least 3 rolls.
Vet spray- a gel type spray on wound cleaner and protecting cover
Gauze pads, lots of them
Honey (to get the animals out of shock and hydrated, we mixed honey in warm water)
Penicillin and disposable hypodermic needles
Tetnus and disposable hypodermic needles
rubber gloves, both surgical ad dish gloves
a shearing razor, electric
mints, strong ones for people to suck on while working so the awful smells don't cause additional problems (like people puking)
fly spray made for wounds- we lost a ewe last year to screw fly larvae and almost lost our Hobbit dog too.

and bottled clean water.

Most of this can be kept in a fishing tackle box for easy to go access. Often we use a 5 gallon bucket with a cover though.

It isn't much, but that's a better start than the nothing we had on hand two years ago.

What would you have?