This past week was the Washington County Fair and Madison County Fair. All of the 4-H kids and FFA kids have gotten their animals ready to go. Now we have this big event. County fairs were originally started so all of the people in the county could get together and show off what they could do at home.
This included raising the prized animal, be it a hog, steer, bull, cow, lamb, goat or horse. It also included cooking and sewing. Remember some of the old movies at fair time with Ma and Pa Kettle; the prized pie. I remember them well. I have even seen tinker toy structures at fairs.
The county fair truly has something for everyone in the family. It is one event that you can take the whole family to and have a safe, but fun time. The carnivals are fun with the rides, but I enjoy the barns with all of the exhibits and animals. It is amazing all the work that must go into getting animals ready for the shows. Plus, it teaches kids how to do it.
This is one time the whole family must come together and work with this animal and get them ready to show. And it promotes agriculture. My wife reminded me that we do not have people going into farming today, but you raise farmers. Plus, I have always looked at how other people treat animals, then I have a clue how they are going to treat other people in their lives. The bulk of farmers today are good stewards with animals and natural resources, otherwise they are not going to be in business long.
For all the kids at the fairs and upcoming fairs, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Country Veterinary Service wishes them well. Please remember that the judge you are dealing with is only one person’s opinion on one day. And this judge may have a different opinion next week.
Now last but not least, we have been getting several calls about turning cattle in on Johnson grass. We’re in a drought situation right now, so Johnson grass is fine and safe as long as it is knee high. When it becomes very toxic to cattle is when we finally get a rain and that new growth appears underneath. The short new growth is what is very toxic. My rule of thumb is to always turn cattle into a new pasture with full bellies. This will dilute any toxins. All toxins are dose dependent. A little bit may not hurt you, but a little more may kill you.
You also need to turn them in when you have the time to sit and watch them. The toxic principle of Johnson grass is nitrates. Nitrates will drop a cow to the ground within one-half to four hours after ingestion. Please, allocate this much time for observation or at least be checking on them quite often during the day.
Clinical signs of Johnson grass and nitrite toxicity include the cows going down, being wobbly and not acting right. The basis of this toxicity is lack of oxygen to the body. They are breathing, but the blood does not have the ability to carry oxygen to the parts of the body. The cows must be treated intravenously immediately, or at least before they take their last breath. I have left them alone for a while since with a lack of oxygen to the brain, they will fight. This fighting will cause them to die quicker. In this case it is better to let them settle down and lay down where you can restrain them properly to get an I.V. in them. Normally after treatment, they will get up and act like nothing has happened in about 5-10 minutes. They must be removed from the Johnson grass and fed something else without nitrites in the feed. Even with treatment, they could have more Johnson grass and nitrites in their belly. So, we could have them drop again, within 24 hours.
Please, remember the rules of thumb:  Knee high is okay, but on Johnson grass, the short tender growth after a drought and rain is the most toxic. If they do get sick, do not fight them. Always turn them into a new pasture with Johnson grass on a full belly.  The other feed in the belly will dilute the nitrite and not let it cause problems.
Dr. Tim O’Neill owns Country Veterinary Clinic in Farmington, Ark.


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