Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Monday, February 27, 2012

Vaccinations 101 -or- Man, It's Cold!

Oh sure . . . they look healthy now . . .
It gets very cold in Southern Alberta.
And calves need to be vaccinated.
And ranching can be a dangerous business.
These statements actually go together.
To create one of the scariest experiences of my young life.
Let me explain . . .
Dad was at a neighbouring ranch, on a -40 spring day, vaccinating the new spring calf crop against Blackleg.
I should probably tell you that Blackleg is a particularly vicious and deadly disease, caused by a spore in the ground.
This tiny spore, inadvertently ingested by calves between six and twenty-four months of age can cause death within 12 to 48 hours.
Nasty.
And impossible to treat, once an animal has been infected.
But, happily, almost completely controlled by early vaccination.
Early.
As in 'before-it-gets-warm-in-Alberta'.
So, sometime before July.
That explains Dad, the calves and the cold.
Moving on . . .
The calves were being shuffled down a chute, one by one, to receive their vitally necessary little jab.
All was going well.
One group finished.
Another being sorted into the catch pen for further shuffling.
Meanwhile, Dad had placed his pistol syringe under his coat to keep it, and the vaccine it contained, from freezing.
Remember? Minus 40?
One of the animals in the pen bumped into him.
The syringe pricked the skin of his belly.
Those needles are sharp for a reason . . .
He could only have taken in a very minute amount of the Blackleg vaccine.
But it was enough.
By the time he finished with the herd, he knew he was in trouble.
He drove himself to the hospital.
And stayed there.
For three weeks.
He was a very, very sick man.
But his strong constitution and normally healthy lifestyle finally tipped the balance and he began to respond to treatment.
At the end of the third week, a thinner, whiter version of my father returned home.
My brave mother hadn't explained, at least to the younger half of the family, exactly what was wrong with Daddy.
We knew he was in hospital, but had no idea why.
Or how serious it was.
It was only years later that I found out the whole story.
Okay. Much too late to panic now.
But we learned several things from this experience:
  1. Vaccine for calves should really only be given to calves.
  2. People don't respond well to it.
  3. Never hold one's syringe under one's coat.
  4. Don't vaccinate in the cold.
  5. So all vaccinating should be done in . . . Arizona.
  6. And you might just work in a little holiday at the same time . . .
You heard it here first.

8 comments:

  1. We all know about farming accidents but this is one I hadn't heard before. Thank goodness he was able to get to the hospital in time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They had just finished building the Milk River hospital a few months before. Miracle?

      Delete
  2. Wow. Really scary. Not making light of this when I say you don't file syringe under coat. As ever, so glad of the outcome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Soooo true, Joanne! A lesson learned!

      Delete
  3. Wow that is scary but didn't he have the syringe covered by a capsule like most people do?
    I would have done it in a warm barn but I guess on a farm thats not the way its done.

    What do I know.
    Poor guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. They did have a little cork that they could put on, but it was probably sitting on the dashboard in his truck along with the bottle of vaccine. Keeping warm. There was, sadly, no facility in a barn for running that number of cattle. So out in the cold, they went. :)

      Delete
  4. Oh dear! That is SO scary! Thankfully, we don't get to minus 40... and have to vaccinate our cows in the midst of it! Yikes!

    I never really thought of it before, but now I have to say I'm a little worried about keeping the vaccine in my refrigerator! And boy or boy... we are getting to that time again already. We have calves dropping to the ground like flies right now! :) We're actually taking a load we saved over last fall along with two bulls to the auction this week. I've NEVER seen these prices before... it's crazy how high they are right now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, that is one thing I REALLY miss about not being on the ranch. Spring calving season. I know. Weird. I'm glad you can get in on high prices. It doesn't happen often!

      Delete

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