Saturday of last week, about 5:30 in the afternoon, HartSong’s caretaker, Summer Honeyman, called to tell me she couldn’t find Woodrow, our 9 month old, totally blind, Black Angus calf. This was unsettling news indeed because it was after all, feeding time and Woodrow is ALWAYS in the barnyard at feeding time. He never misses a meal! After about thirty minutes of searching, Summer found him, happily munching on a grassy pasture with HartSong’s 10 other happy cows. Normally, this discovery would not have been a big deal except for the fact that this particular pasture is located all the way on the other side of the ranch meaning that in order for Woodrow to get himself over there, he had to bravely cross the canal, now running very fast and deep, navigate his way entirely around the pond, cross the dam and climb the big hill that leads up to the east barn. WOW!!! He had never done that before!!! Way to go, Woodrow!!! He wasn’t the slightest bit interested to follow us back to the west side and in that he had once before survived a night away from the safety of the west barn, we decided to let him spend another night with the rest of the herd.
Early the next morning, I very much regretted the decision when I spied Woodrow, slowly staggering up the gravel road headed for the west barn. From a distance, I could tell something was wrong because his head was cocked in a funny sort of way and he appeared to have difficulty with his balance, almost walking as if drunk. When I got up close to him, I saw the blood and immediately saw the problem. The outer casing of his left horn was completely gone, revealing a pointed mass of bleeding, inflamed tissue. Apparently sometime during the night, Woodrow collided with something so violently that the force of the encounter severed the outer casing of his horn. The left side of his face was covered in blood and he was obviously in a lot of pain. He needed immediate help so I pulled out my cell phone, called the vet and two hours later, Jim, myself and Woodrow pulled up to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis, CA.
After a 5 minute examination by Dr. Vengai Mavangira, a food animal vet from Zimbabwe, it was decided the only way to eliminate Woodrow’s pain was to remove his horns entirely. For those of you that might not know, the meat or interior of the horn is a highly sensitive mass, packed with nerves and blood vessels and when broken, the pain can be excruciating and sometimes, the wound can kill a cow if not treated promptly. Without hesitation, we gave the go ahead and 45 minutes later, Woodrow was hornless, leaving him with two gaping holes(each about the size of a quarter) where his horns used to be. Dr. Mavangira pointed out that peering into the hole revealed his sinus cavity, a “pink, fleshy void” just a bit bigger than a softball. How bizarre. I had no idea. Medical protocol following a de-horning procedure is to “not” bandage the wounds as covering up the holes would encourage the accumulation of moisture and moisture breeds bacteria so to eliminate the chance of infection, the standard operating procedure is to leave the cauterized holes open to the air. Concerned, I asked Dr. Mavangira, “what about the flies?” He replied, “Well, they can be a big problem so I suggest the following two options. Number 1, spray the holes daily with fly spray and keep your fingers crossed the flies don’t find Woodrow’s sinus cavities suitable environments in which to lay their eggs or, number 2, try to finagle some type of covering, perhaps out of fly mask material, to cover the holes while allowing for adequate ventilation.” Not wanting to spray pesticide directly onto a fresh, open wound, Jim and I decided the best course of action would be to design some type of covering. Our first attempt was to cut up one of the horse’s fly masks but we couldn’t get it to fit. The Velcro closure was in the wrong place and the material was too rigid. Then, we tried to fashion a kind of “plug” to place over the holes but we couldn’t figure out how to securely attach the “plug” to his head.
Distressed, I went in search of Woodrow and found him standing in the canal, tossing his head from side to side, trying to rid himself of the flies that were, as predicted, crawling in and out of the holes in his head. I stood there for a long while evaluating the situation …hmmmmm….two bumps that need to be covered… and then it dawned on me….what about a bra?
As luck would have it, a week earlier, I picked up a truck load of donations for our annual barn sale and I remembered seeing a suitcase full of bras. Even though my husband thought me “completely off my rocker”, I went digging and found a brand new, baby pink, padded, 36-C cup bra. I cut away the padded inner lining to ensure ventilation, put his ears through the arm bands, tied them together under his neck and connected the back clasp to the arm bands. Well, I’ll be darned, it fit perfectly. Go figure!!! Only a “woman rancher” could have thought this one up!!! Later that week, I emailed Dr. Mavangira a few photos of Woodrow modeling his new head gear. He replied and I quote, “Well….I must say that I am at a loss for words. This is GREAT! These pictures will make it to my lectures and of course, I will give you the credit.”
I’m thrilled to let you know that Woodrow has been sashaying around the sanctuary in his “pink bra” for over a week now.
Unfortunately, he will have to wear “the pink 36-C cup bra” for the next month until his horn holes close up. I’m quite certain he doesn’t much appreciate the fact that he’s outfitted with a “pink bra”, but he sure likes all the attention. Over the Holiday weekend, we had quite a few visitors to the sanctuary. One woman, before she was even out of her car, hollered at me, “why is there a black cow standing in the canal with a pink bra on his head?” So, I told her…..
HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Animal Welfare Organization
supported entirely by private contributions
3900 Blue Heron Way • Greenwood, CA 95635 • Email