New Horizons Writers Group

Homeless and Unhappy

Bob Hirt

In most dairy herds it has become standard practice to remove the horns of cattle to prevent disfiguring fighting, the loss of an eye or other injuries, or even bullying of their peers. One can easily picture a Texas Longhorn species goring a victim by the feed trough just to gain advantage. Now, for humanitarian reasons alone it is considered appropriate to remove the horns of cattle when they are under six months of age and then only when a local anesthetic is first injected. Sadly though, adult animals are sometimes sold and if the original owner did not follow through and have the dehorning process done when the animal was a youngster that animal will likely again try to establish its “hierarchical position” in its new home. Thus, the need in many cases to dehorn an adult bovine.

Such was the case when Leonard called me to his farm to treat a dairy cow that was not eating properly and was acting strangely, bobbing its head frantically. The cow had been de-horned.

“Doc, Casey came over the other day. He told me that he’s done this many-a-time and it ain’t a problem – told me he’d done another neighbor’s awhile ago and that’s what friends are for!” The neighbor, not wanting his friend to incur a veterinary fee used a saw to remove the horns. On adult cattle there is often an open cavity remaining after the horn is removed. Normally this cavity should be covered until a natural seal develops. Leonard hadn’t thought of that and thus hay seeds and grain from a neighboring bovine heavily contaminated the surgical site. The sinus cavity became grossly infected and the poor cow was in considerable pain. Any attempt to flush the site was met with obvious discomfort. Even a local anesthetic did little to dull the pain. Within two minutes the beast let out a horrific roar, broke free of its stanchion, backed up and galloped full speed down through the center of the barn.

She was not to be subdued. Leonard headed her off but, not to be outdone she turned and reversed her direction. This time she seemed even more intent on avenging the cruelty she must have felt that was perpetrated upon her body. With no hesitation whatsoever she plowed into and through my open medical case standing in the aisle. Not quite content that she had done enough damage she again reversed direction and headed back and one more time adorned the case with samples of urine and manure as she ran.

Lenny said to me: “Doc, the hell with her, let her settle down and come back tomorrow and maybe by then what little you were able to do today will have helped some”. We both smiled through our sweaty faces, and went on to another job in the next barn, one that allowed us to cool off and thank the Good Lord that we humans were born without horns. Leonard seemed sheepish, maybe even a little embarrassed during the rest of my time there. What could I say?