My husband and I survived the long winter and our first hay harvest of the season, only to be immediately immersed in the scourge of pink eye. Pink eye is a virus that is always present in your cows and calves but if you are lucky it just sits there dormant showing no symptoms. We have been lucky that in the past five years operating our business we haven't had a problem, but do not boast or feel superior because every dog has its day. Our day came last week.
Normally a rancher's best friend is a bush hog, which is a mower for those of you not mechanically in the know. By keeping your fields clipped to a height of about eight inches, give or take, you eliminate the long stringy grass and weeds that irritate the animal's eyelid as it happily grazes along. This year our spring was so late that the overall grass thatch was slow to grow but here and there long, stringy grasses were present in just the right amount to be irritating. Adding insult to injury the torrential downpours that were rolling in on a regular basis kicked off a storm of horn flies, a deadly concoction resulting in rampant pink eye.
The war was on and we had to deal with it immediately to try and stop it from spreading mercilessly throughout our herd. Off to the supply store for spray and minerals only to find every other rancher doing the same thing. Not a good sign. This line of farmers told me it was going to be a bad season because everyone was having the same problem. Armed with my mini arsenal we waited until dusk when the heat lifted to begin our siege. Black cows stay hidden in the trees during extreme heat in order to keep cool, they come out in the evening to eat so we decided to give them a treat when they came out of hiding. Alfalfa is what I call "cow candy" they love it and they will come to it every time so we baited them with alfalfa.
My husband drove the truck while I threw out alfalfa from the bed of the truck and after they started eating I sprayed a fine mist of fly kill on them to help get rid of the irritation caused by the horn flies. It was hot and sticky riding in the bed of the truck and as each flake was thrown, a fine layer of scratchy hay dust covered my arms and neck adhering to the sweat like an irritating blanket of crud. This wasn't the least bit fun but neither is pink eye, so I could feel comforted knowing I was doing my part to stop the war on flies. Any plan was better than no plan until Sunday when we would have the help we needed to get the entire herd in for proper doctoring, until then our nightly sprays and minerals were better than nothing. Sunday couldn't get here soon enough.
In the meantime I had menu planning to do. Sunday would be a long day with hungry cowboys and cowgirls expecting something good to eat at the end of the day! Gotta go make my grocery list, at least this is one list I can keep.