Being Your Own Vet

Tim Brown had decided that instead of waiting for his wife to help him, he could vaccinate his ewes himself, this time. Besides, there were only 15 ewes and they were accustomed to being handled. His facilities were well maintained, and it was a job he just did not want to put off any longer.

He ran the ewes down the narrow alley where he normally worked the sheep. Usually his wife held the ewe while he administered the vaccine. Since the ewes were small, and money was tight it worked better than an expensive squeeze chute. This time Tim would have to hold AND vaccinate but it shouldn't be that difficult, after all they were Dorset ewes so they were small and very docile.

On the seventh ewe, Tim ran into a snag. As he held the ewe and started to squeeze the syringe, she jumped. He wrestled with the ewe trying to bring her under control, but the needle popped out of the ewe and into his wrist. He, not the ewe, got that vaccination. Fortunately, he didn't suffer any ill effects, but his situation brings to mind some topics for discussion. Should he have had his veterinarian come out to vaccinate the ewes? Should he have been doing the job by himself? Did he know the possible consequences of injecting himself before he started? The list could go on and on.

There's no reason for a farmer not to treat sick animals himself, provided he understands the seriousness of the situation and the consequences of mistakes. Common sense comes into play here in that the farmer needs to recognize when he's dealing with a situation that needs professional attention. Vaccinating ewes is a task that can probably be handled on the farm without the help of a veterinarian. But, before you begin, you should visit with the vet about the vaccine being administered, what constitutes misuse, and what are the consequences of you, the handler, getting poked with the needle.

Precautions should be taken anytime you are treating animals at home. Hand protection is very important. Wear disposable hand protection or something that is easily sterilized, but disposable is the best choice, and it's a necessity.

Proper handling techniques for home veterinary work are important, too. Needle damage in muscle can cause abscesses, bruises, and trim outs in slaughter animals. This damage can be very costly to the producer as it devalues the meat. Vaccinations in the neck tend to be the least damaging to the meat.

Good, sound, safe equipment is just as important as knowing the particulars of vaccines being administered. Good equipment and well-maintained facilities are a tremendous help when trying to prevent bruising when handling or doctoring slaughter animals. Good equipment also will encourage participation from young helpers without putting them in danger.

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