First Aid on the Farm: Handling Livestock Injuries and Emergencies

Every homesteader should know how to safely and effectively treat simple wounds, illnesses, injuries and emergencies.

| April/May 1999

In many rural areas, folks can't count on 24-hour emergency veterinary care for livestock. Nevertheless, if you own animals, eventually you will have an emergency. What happens when you have a horse with a gaping wound, or a ewe trying to lamb, or maybe a cow that is stretched out flat, and your veterinarian is unavailable? The well-being —perhaps even the life—of your animals is now in your hands.

To stop uncontrolled bleeding from a severed vessel, follow these steps for applying a pressure bandage: clean the wound, apply an antiseptic, cover with a nonstick gauze pad, followed by roll cotton and Vet Wrap. A properly wrapped pressure bandage can stop an animal from bleeding out before the vet arrives.

While panic is likely your natural reaction, it's unlikely to produce positive, life-saving results. Not everyone has the wherewithal to stay calm in an emergency: however, you've a moral and a legal duty to try. Your animals rely on you for food, shelter, and, yes, a calm head when they are injured or sick.

A Basic Livestock First Aid Kit

In addition to your wound management kit, you should maintain a basic health kit for your farm. Most of the items you will need are readily available at local feed stores, through farm catalogs, or from sites an the Internet. Below is a list of items that I recommend my clients keep available:

+ a sturdy tool box
+ restraint equipment appropriate for the species
+ thermometer with a sting and alligator clip (The clip is attached at the base of the tail. It will prevent you from accidentally dropping the thermometer, helping you to avoid unpleasant fishing expeditions. Also, keep in mind that a quality digital thermometer is easier to read at night.)
+ a clean, preferably stainless-steel, bucket
+ hypodermic needles 16,18, and 20-gauge, 1 to 1.5 inches long (for vaccination & antibiotic therapy)
+ six 14-gauge, two-inch needles (for intravenous therapy for cattle)
+ IV simplex hose
+ syringes: 5cc, 12cc, and 60cc (Clean and energize syringes for reuse.)
+ obstetric chains and handles (obstetric lack optional)
+ neonatal resuscitator
+ stomach tube—size appropriate for species
+ neonatal esophageal feeder
+ a small refrigerator designated to maintain vaccines and antibiotics
+ a bright reliable flashlight

Did you ever ask yourself why veterinarians or other medical professionals don't panic in emergency situations? The answer is: They are prepared. You, too, can keep calm by arming yourself with knowledge and the right equipment.

What Constitutes an Emergency?

Since one person's emergency may be another person's minor headache, it makes sense for us to begin by defining the term. Lets assume, for the purposes of this article, that an emergency is an event that, without proper intervention, will lead to loss of life, limb, or a major physiologic function within one hour.

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