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Software Disease

February 3, 2015

Hardware disease is what cattle owners are used to worrying about.  Cattle don’t completely chew their food at first, they bite, chew a bit, and then swallow large amounts of grass for later rumination.  Sharp bits of metal in feeds or in pastures get eaten by mistake and deposited in the reticulum or rumen and can cause serious problems.   It’s advisable to administer a magnet as a prophylactic to hold any metal in place and to avoid internal punctures which at the very least could make a cow unthrifty, and many times will cause death.

Now there’s a “new” kid on the block, plastic.  And it’s everywhere.  Twine, bale wrap, zip ties, broken buckets, broken electric fence insulators to name a few on modern-day farms.

coyote teething toy

coyote teething toy

I have a love/hate relationship with plastic, much like quack grass.  It does serve it’s purpose.  Without plastic I wouldn’t have electric fence.  Sure I could use glass insulators, but that would be cost prohibitive and more of a permanent type fence.  Glass insulators are heavy, I can’t see myself walking off across the field with fourteen fence posts with glass insulators attached.

Plastic makes my life easy

Plastic makes my life easy

Seeing red

Seeing red

The most common plastic problem is appearing to be twine.  We use sisal for our baling needs.  But we buy grain straw from another farmer who prefers plastic.

straw for deep bedding

straw for deep bedding

And I have to say I like having some plastic twine around.  It’s the new baling wire.

2-14-twine hazard
I have yet to come across a farm (unless it’s brand spanking new with fences to match) including ours that doesn’t have at least one gate or hog panel lashed up with plastic twine.  It’s the bomb, that plastic twine.

Reese's piece of twine

Reese’s piece of twine

Try as I might to keep it all picked up, a stray piece here or there finds it way into the pasture or in the barn where it doesn’t belong and one of the calves picks it up.  Calves are teething, and they like to chew anything just like a pup.  Bottle calves are the worst, I think because they don’t get as much satisfaction from nursing and they have more access.  Me reading horror stories of autopsies on cattle with balls of twine plugging up their digestive tracts doesn’t help either.  So besides picking up stray metal on your farms, be diligent about plastic and aluminum too, a magnet can’t help that.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Rock Island Newt permalink
    February 3, 2015 1:04 pm

    We find thrown out strongish cups and straws to be a real threat to our calves. I pick up a 55 gal from of trash around out frontage every month.

  2. Rock Island Newt permalink
    February 3, 2015 1:05 pm

    That should have read styrofoam cups.

  3. Rock Island Newt permalink
    February 3, 2015 1:22 pm

    I need to add one note that I forgot about the plastic baling twine. Two years ago our neighbor lost a calf because it had gotten its mouth tangled in plastic string near the hay rings. In one day the lower mandible was over half detached and sadly, you can guess the rest of the story. Sorry to have three posts on this subject but I am passionate about no metal fence ties, steeples or trash ever getting close to our herd.

  4. Bev permalink
    February 3, 2015 1:31 pm

    We try to sleuth around for any of the above mentioned, too. My Hubby found an Oriole nest from last year. A long sack like pouch. This one was mostly woven horse hair and blue plastic. Plastic tarps don’t do well, they disintergrate quickly. Know your husband made your twine hook. A beautiful work of art.

  5. Bee permalink
    February 3, 2015 7:05 pm

    Critters are the daggonedest things for getting themselves into messes, whether it’s eating something, getting cut up or finding a “toy” to play with. I once knew a horse named Danopah (supposedly Gaelic for “Oh my gosh!”). His owner found him coming around the barn one day with a ladder around his neck. He’d managed to get it right in the middle, so it was perfectly balanced. Any other horse would have gone totally bananas and had a hideous wreck, but Danny just wandered around until he found a nice human who would take off his necklace. No matter what we do, they’ll always think of something that never occurred to us…

  6. February 3, 2015 7:30 pm

    Okay, okay, I’ll walk the field tomorrow and look for twine. I know it’s out there. As much as I try to save it for various uses when I open a new bale of hay, some of it always makes its way out into the field. Or into the compost pile, usually. And it is not just my own livestock who are at risk; I read an article in Audobon that for some reason, ospreys are incredibly drawn to the stuff and will seek it out for nest building – and then as it frays they get entangled or strangled in it. It is fatal surprisingly often. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. February 4, 2015 12:53 pm

    Steve lost a cow. I believe she had a ball of sisal in her belly. But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve read of plastic shopping bags (roadside litter) and even a cow killed by eating a pair of blue jeans. Yeah. Wonder what was going on in that pasture.

    • February 4, 2015 1:48 pm

      Do you think it was because the human wearing the blue jeans killed the cow? 😉 How bout aluminum pop cans meets haybine? That shreds the inside of cow if it’s in the hay.

  8. February 9, 2015 2:31 am

    I was shocked when I saw the stomach contents of a steer we had butchered, it included plastic bags and rope. After that, I made an extra effort to pick up everything I saw in the pasture. We had a very messy farmer own the farm before us, and we are constantly picking up his rubbish. The other one that’s bad is barbwire, I’ve seen that wrapped around a cow’s let to the point she had to be put down (not our animal, not our property) and we have plenty of that to pick up too.

    • February 9, 2015 1:17 pm

      Liz, I know, and as careful as we are there is a lot of old history on this farm, plus what blows in or comes in and what we don’t know or realize we’re dropping. The horse manure delivery we get sometimes has all sorts of “interesting” things in it 😦 I did see on that person’s FB page though an article about horses ingesting twine, so I’m hoping she will be more diligent now.

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