People frequently take veterinary decisions into their own hands. When an animal is sick or involved in an accident, the farmer has to do something, or run the risk of losing the animal.
What do vets recognize as appropriate and inappropriate procedures for owners to perform?
“In all cases, it depends on the owner’s knowledge base and comfort level,” said Andy McCorkill, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. “In some situations, such as Brucellosis, vaccination must be done by an accredited veterinarian. Check with your vet to see what’s acceptable. Administering selected vaccines, deworming, dehorning and castration can all be successfully performed by owners.”
Why do owners choose self-care? “Some farms are located where veterinarians are far away, and transport problems limit what one vet can cover,” said Dave Sparks, DVM, Oklahoma State University Area Extension Food Animal and Health specialist. “In some situations, it may cost more to include a vet than can be earned from the animal – providing it gets better. Since modern drugs for many livestock diseases can be easily administered, and seasoned livestock owners can recognize symptoms of common illnesses, it is often to their advantage to do it themselves. In other situations, the volume of work to be done and the accompanying increased cost justifies owners’ decisions to perform their own procedures.”
How often should the vet be involved?
“A good herd health program should be designed for each operation. At least annual and sometimes semi-annual visits are necessary for healthy animals. Being a keen observer who practices good management and nutrition can avoid many problems that require veterinary assistance,” said Sparks.
How can livestock owners prepare for situations when do-it-yourself treatment is appropriate?
“Owners should keep a supply of medicines, tools and a well stocked first aid kit. This might include broad spectrum antibiotics, deworming medication, topical ointment, iodine, wraps and bandages, needles and syringe, stethoscope, thermometer, supplies to pull a calf, instruments for castration, dehorning, and so forth,” said Tim O’Neill, DVM, Country Veterinary Service, Farmington, Ark. “Most important, is keeping a good ongoing relationship with a qualified vet who can offer advice or accept complicated cases requiring more expert treatment.”
“Owners who administer vaccines should be careful not to mix up more vaccine than needed and keep the vials out of light and heat,” said Sparks.
“Be open to learning,” said Jeremy Powell, DVM, associate professor, U of A Department of Animal Science. “Local associations, cooperative extension livestock specialists, and area universities provide avenues of education for owners to expand their veterinary knowledge base.” Mentors provide a great source of encouragement and knowledge, but shouldn’t be your main source of information. That should be left to a veterinarian you trust,” said Powell.