MU Extension project helps 93-year-old farmer – Houston Herald

Farmers like 93-year-old Harry Keutzer don’t quit just because their body parts slow down.

His hens, cows and pets depend on him. So do customers at the Kansas City-area farmers markets where he sells produce, eggs and hand-loomed rugs.

The Missouri AgrAbility Project, through University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and the Brain Injury Association of Missouri, provides aging farmers with information, referrals and a variety of resources to keep working.

Lincoln University Extension farm and AgrAbility outreach worker Susan Jaster carried out an assessment of accessibility at Keutzer’s Lafayette County farm and made recommendations on how to make the home safer and more accessible.


Harry Keutzer


MU Extension state health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch said AgrAbility helps farmers with disabilities caused by age, injury or illness to keep farming. The program provides research-based information and appropriate referrals to other agencies as needed.

America’s farm population has been aging rapidly over the last 30 years. According to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, released in 2014, the average age of U.S. farmers is 58.3 years. There are now more farmers over 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44, Funkenbusch said.

Keutzer and his daughter-in-law, Stacy, grew 3,000 tomato plants in a high tunnel last year. They also planted a three-acre garden and put in a large plot of potatoes on a neighbor’s garden spot. Stacy picks all of the produce and Harry sorts it. Both wash and pack it.

Mobility is a challenge. When it rains, Keutzer has to stay inside and can’t work. But Keutzer’s energy level and stamina during the three-hour farm assessment surprised Jaster.

“He has the energy and deserves to be able to carry on his active life,” she said.

AgrAbility recommended a different type of scooter to reduce fatigue and help him maneuver around the farm over muddy and rough ground. The program also recommended a hydraulic lift to move pallets from the ground to make it easier to load produce onto the enclosed truck the Keutzers take to farmers markets.

Harry’s weathered hands are rarely idle and his mind remains active with farmer ingenuity. He finds it increasingly difficult to plant, so he and his son, Virgil, built a transplanter for their small tractor. It plants and waters the plant plug and lays weed-barrier plastic.

He uses his scooter to check on 100 chickens and takes buckets of water to livestock. He milks a three-teated cow that provides milk for two calves and a gallon a day for milk, butter, homemade ice cream and tapioca for the Keutzers.

He still enjoys cutting wood. He makes wine and helps his daughter-in-law cut fabric strips to make into loomed rugs. In October, he assisted a calving cow with a difficult birth.

Keutzer grew up working with his brothers on his father’s 500-acre farm at Creighton, Mo. He was so small when he started milking cows that his father had a special milking stool made for him.

He went to a country school until eighth grade. He said boys carried .22-caliber single-shot rifles to school, shooting rabbits and squirrels along the way to feed their families. And all boys had a two-bladed pocketknife, he says, to skin wild game and play “mumblepeg” at recess.

After school each day, he listened to 15 minutes of the Tom Mix cowboy show on the radio before starting chores. The radio wasn’t turned on again until 9:30 p.m., when the family listened to “Amos ’n’ Andy” and the news.

He farmed with a team of horses before buying his first tractor, a Farmall F-20. In 1942, Harry bought his second tractor, an Allis-Chalmers WC, at auction for $870.

He and other farmers anxiously awaited electrification through REA. On Jan. 7, 1945, he and his wife, Johnnie, celebrated her birthday in nearby Clinton. They returned home to a house lit with electricity, and their new Montgomery Ward refrigerator was plugged in and running.

He, his wife and a hired hand traveled the area baling hay from spring to fall. His wife drove the tractor as he put the 8 ½-foot wires into the baler. The hired hand tied the bales. It was hard work, but Keutzer and his wife made enough money to buy a new Kaiser automobile with cash.

In 1952, the Keutzers moved to southern Minnesota, where his uncles lived. He rented 320 acres on shares and was one of the first to plant soybean. Corn was selling for $1.25 a bushel under a government price-protection system.

Times were different then, Harry recalls. Farm implement dealers and oil companies helped young farmers get started by extending credit until crops were sold. He bought a four-row cultivator, planter, disk, a new corn picker and two new tractors – a John Deere 720 diesel and an IH Farmall 400 – on credit.

He and Johnnie also opened their home to 50 foster children during their time in Minnesota. The dinner table was often set for more than 20. He taught the children the value of rural life, hard work and being self-sufficient.

In 1959, his father quit farming and he returned to Missouri. Harry rented the farm next to his father’s and had 1,000 acres of South Grand River bottomland.

They farmed the home place until 1972, when Truman Reservoir took much of their land. They sold out and returned to Minnesota to a 45-head dairy farm.

His son met Stacy and married. She wasn’t a farm girl but quickly learned how to care for 45 bucket calves. They farmed there until Harry’s wife died, then moved to Iowa. He worked until he was 81 as a night watchman for Spee-Dee Delivery Services before moving to Napoleon.

Keutzer’s farming practices and lifestyle evolved as times and technology changed. He keeps current with technology by following farm auctions and news online.

Just as he learned to incorporate new farming methods throughout his life, he has learned to adjust as a farming nonagenarian.

AgrAbility gives him the resources to continue doing what he loves to do-provide food to feed America.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency of USDA, administers the AgrAbility Project.

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Brighten up your home – Waterbury Republican American

Gorgeous Bull Skull by Aureus Arts

CHICAGO TRIBUNENo need to break out the crayons. Beat the winter grays with bright stuff for your home. Here are some products to get you started.

1. Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders’ cheeky designs make clashing colors harmonious. His Herringbone carpet for The Rug Company is a case in point. $129 per square foot at The Rug Company, Chicago.

2. Primary colors and simple organic shapes mark the chairs from the Swedish design trio Claesson Koivisto Rune for Tacchini. The Kelly E Chair is $2,300, at Orange Skin, Chicago.

3. The Lindona Necklace from Songa Designs, an eco-friendly accessories line made by women in Rwanda as a way to establish their economic independence. Each handmade piece is made of repurposed natural materials such as banana leaf fiber, sisal plant, and cow horn. $48 at songadesigns. com.

4. Improve your mood by upholstering Vitra’s Mariposa sofa in a bold hue. Pick from dozens of colors including poppy red, grass green, magenta and lemon, pictured. $7,520 at

5. Four shades in different hues give the Tam Tam suspension lamp by Design Fabien Dumas a colorful personality. $1,093 at

6. Give time the attention it deserves with a clock that steals the proverbial show. Normann Copenhagen’s Watch Me Wall Clock is $50 at

7. Studio Job’s paper lamp for Moooi is inspired by classic lamps but draws on a crafty material. $1,703.00 at

8. Warm up any seat in the room with Maharam’s Millerstripe Pillow with fabric designed by famed 20th-century industrial designer Alexander Girard. The 17-inch pillow is 92 percent wool and 8 percent nylon and sports a cotton insert with a duck feather fill. $175 at

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Beef + Lamb New Zealand Unveils Multi-Million Dollar U.S. Campaign – Drovers Magazine

A campaign has been launched in California by farmers from New Zealand to promote grass-fed, pasture-raised beef and lamb.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand, an agriculture group supporting beef and sheep raisers in New Zealand, announced on March 20 it is kicking off its U.S. advertising campaign in California. The producer-led initiative will feature online advertisements, internet video commercials, social media, public relations and a website with recipe information. Beef + Lamb New Zealand plans to spend several millions of dollars on the campaign. 

The campaign will feature grass-fed meat under New Zealand’s Taste Pure Nature labeling. The program includes a partnership with New Zealand retail brands:

  • Atkins Ranch, the largest North American supplier of lamb.
  • First Light, grass-fed Wagyu beef brand that was recently crowned the gold winner at the World Steak Challenge in London.
  • The Lamb Company, 100% grass-fed and finished lamb that is Non-GMO Project Verified.

“We are delighted to partner with leading brands and companies from New Zealand to increase consumer excitement and drive discovery for the incredible quality and taste of our grass-fed beef and lamb products,” says Andrew Morrison, Chairman, Beef + Lamb New Zealand. “New Zealand sheep and cattle are raised in a farming paradise with rolling green hills surrounded by an expansive ocean and fresh, clean air, and we believe this results in the best grass-fed meat.”

New Zealand is a significant importer of beef and veal to the U.S. sending 572,313,000 lb. of beef and veal to the U.S during 2018, according to data from USDA. During that time New Zealand ranked third in beef and veal imports to the U.S. behind Australia and Canada, respectively.

For lamb and mutton, New Zealand ranks second for import totals to the U.S. sending nearly 53 million lb. during 2018. Australia has nearly triple that number in lamb and mutton imports with 149 million lb. last year.

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New York officers corral wayward cow running on expressway – WLS-TV

BRONX, New York City — NYPD officers corralled a wayward cow running loose on a Bronx highway Tuesday.

Emergency Service Unit officers wrangled the cow off exit 6 of the Major Deegan Expressway.

It is unknown where the cow came from or how it got loose and ended up on the roadway.
The investigation is ongoing.

Animal Care and Control will temporarily take custody of the bovine, and Skylands Sanctuary of Wantage is on the way to collect the animal.

Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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12,000 Doctors Urge the USDA to Issue Dairy Warning – LIVEKINDLY

The nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which counts 12,000 members from the medical community, is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to rethink dairy’s place in the forthcoming Dietary Guidelines.

The newly appointed 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should take cues from the growing body of research pointing to dairy’s health risks, according to the group. Canada recently dialed down its dairy recommendations significantly, removing all dairy except for small amounts of milk.

Is Dairy Healthy?

Under current U.S. guidelines, the recommendations suggest that “most individuals” would benefit from increased dairy consumption. But data show as much as 65 percent of the human population is lactose intolerant. “The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 million to 50 million American adults are lactose intolerant, including 95 percent of Asians Americans, 60-80 percent of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80-100 percent of Native Americans, and 50-80 percent of Hispanics,” says PCRM. “The Guidelines have never taken into consideration these populations’ natural progression toward not breaking down a major sugar found in milk.”

For people with lactose intolerance, dairy consumption can cause “bloating, diarrhea, and gas,” the group notes.

And, according to PCRM, dairy serves as the biggest contributor of saturated fat in the American diet. Current U.S. dietary guidelines recommend avoiding saturated fat to decrease the risk of heart disease.

“It’s time for the Dietary Guidelines to finally make it clear to Americans that dairy products are dangerous,” Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., PCRM’s director of nutrition education said in a statement. “The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee can’t ignore the scientific evidence against dairy when it makes its recommendations to the USDA and HHS.”

PCRM warns of other risks connected to dairy consumption including several types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and early death. The group also points to misinformation surrounding dairy and bone health. More readily absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium can be found in beans, leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach, tofu, bread, and fortified cereals, the group notes. It also recommends fruits and vegetables as healthier sources of potassium and sourcing vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight or fortified foods such as vegan milk.

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Blizzard killed 1,850 cows, Yakima area farmers are reeling – mySA

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. (AP) — The unexpected blizzard that swept through the Yakima Valley on Feb. 9 was just one more clobbering for the region’s dairy farms.

The number of dairy farms in the state has plummeted from 2,500 in 1993 to 377 in 2018, according to the Washington Farm Bureau, which represents the mostly family-owned businesses. Four years of low milk prices have led numerous farmers to call it quits.

Dairy farms also face new state regulations for handling and storing cow manure that one dairy consultant estimates have initial costs of $300,000 to $2 million. Requirements include special liners for the lagoons holding the manure, and a mandatory leak-detection system.

But Yakima Valley dairy farmers were unprepared for what befell them on Feb. 9. A storm with wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph and temperatures in the low to mid-teens sent wind chills plummeting near zero degrees, leaving 1,850 dairy cattle dead in the span of a few hours. With each cow valued by the dairies at $2,000, the loss was $3.7 million.

Though dairy farmers can apply for reimbursement of 75 percent of the livestock’s market value for weather-related deaths through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the loss hit Yakima Valley farmers hard.

“What next? Biblical plagues? A violent tornado?” says Stu Turner, a West Richland-based agronomist and consultant to the dairy industry. “They’ve faced almost everything that you can think of that’s negative.”

Dairy cows have died by the hundreds — even the thousands — before in blizzards. An estimated 35,000 cows died in December 2015 when a winter storm dubbed Goliath swept through West Texas and New Mexico. Tens of thousands more died in an October 2013 snowstorm in South Dakota.

But last month’s tragedy drew national coverage, spurring angry reaction from animal-rights groups and condemnation on the internet.

PETA announced it would purchase either a billboard or maybe transit ads in the Yakima area to commemorate the deaths. The image will be of a mother cow and her calf, next to the words, “Not Your Mom? Not Your Milk! Choose Vegan.”

Jason Sheehan, who lost 200 cows at his J & K Dairy, says most of the dairy farmers who lost cows don’t want to be part of media coverage. Not far away from his farm is a dairy that lost 600 cows, he says, but that farmer didn’t want publicity.

“No matter how good a job we do, how well we care for the animals, people tend to turn it around on us,” Sheehan says. “There’s lot of keyboard warriors out there these days.”

In fact, few Americans know much about farm life. In 2016, only 1.5 percent of Americans were employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing or hunting, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

‘We had employees in tears’

As you drive on the country road to the J & K Dairy about four miles east of Sunnyside, the scenery is of fields blanketed in snow and barns dotting a picturesque setting. Last week, even some sunshine poked through.

The Yakima Valley is home to 57 dairy farms, with an average herd size of 1,300, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Washington is 10th in the nation for milk production — in 2017 it was a $1.13 billion industry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The National Weather Service office in Pendleton, Ore., which serves the Yakima Valley, says the blizzard warning it issued for the Feb. 9 storm was “the first time” it had issued such a warning for the area. That includes records going back to 2007, and institutional memory prior to that.

Trying to escape the wind and snow, the cows reverted to their herd instinct and bunched up. The result was that they trampled each other or suffocated.

“It was just overwhelming. We tried to move them, to quit bunching up, but it was just like people in a crowd, pushing, tripping over, falling down,” says Sheehan, who owns the dairy with his wife, Karen, and her parents, Tony and Brenda Veiga.

Sheehan says he and his workers were afraid for their own safety. They were in the midst of 1,500-pound cows.

“We did everything we could. Every one of these animals was raised by us. We had employees in tears, seeing the animals that had died,” he says.

The snow, says Sheehan, was swirling so much, “I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face.” It stuck to his clothes. Later, when he took off his coveralls, they were so frozen, “You could near stand them up.”

The day of the blizzard, at 6 in the morning on a Saturday, he says, he had met with his crew for the shift change. The 3,000-cow dairy employs 35 people. The weather forecast was calling for 25 mph winds and 3 to 5 inches of snow. They could deal with that, he thought. “We’ve had snowstorms before,” says Sheehan.

But they weren’t prepared for what happened within an hour. “The wind picked up and we hit 30 to 50 miles immediately at 7. They (the National Weather Service) were correct on the timing but completely missed the severity.”

Marc Austin, warning coordination meteorologist for the Weather Service, says a blizzard warning was issued at 5:29 a.m. Saturday, meaning 5-10 inches of snow and gusts up to 50 mph. The day before, it had issued a less-severe winter storm warning.

The meteorologist adds, “I can easily see if you take somebody who’s lived in that part of country their whole lives, they’ve seen some pretty bad storms, and maybe they thought this couldn’t be any worse than last time.”

The dairy farmers were left scrambling.

“A lot of them spent the whole 36 hours prior to the blizzard stacking bales of hay to make wind breaks, and trying to get the cows into some sort of makeshift shelters,” says Chelsi Riordan, spokeswoman for the Dairy Farmers of Washington.

But it wasn’t enough.

“The storm was something they had never seen before,” says Riordan.

In that region, dairy cows are kept in open pens with some roofing. It’s not freezing weather that concerns the farmers, but summer temperatures that are in the 90s, sometimes 100.

In addition to the 200 cows that died at the J & K Dairy, another 500 or so suffered frostbite to their teats, turning parts black and killing the tissue. Sheehan says he expects other dairies that suffered cow deaths to have twice as many frostbite cases. Some 15 farms suffered losses, says the Washington State Dairy Federation.

After the blizzard, Gov. Jay Inslee made $100,000 available to collect and haul the dead cows to a landfill in Oregon.

Sheehan says other choices were a rendering plant or to compost them on site.

Sheehan wouldn’t say what he’s done with his 200 dead cows. “If you look at social media, things get taken out of context,” he says.

Sheehan’s crew still has the 500 other cows with frostbite. At the milking barn, the cows get bag balm — a salve developed in 1899 for cracked cow udders — on their teats.

But if scar tissue remains, he says, “she can’t milk out” and workers end up squeezing out the milk manually, with infection possible because the teat won’t seal after milking. The cow then will be sold for meat.

Sheehan says his farm had been “at close to break even, maybe a little below” these past four years of low milk prices. He says prices went down because of overproduction as farms got more efficient and demand for milk dropped.

But milk prices had been rebounding. Things were looking for the better, until the blizzard.

Sheehan knows the ordeal was a news blip for many people.

But here at the dairy farms, a month later, they’re still reeling. Sheehan has no thoughts of quitting dairy farming, as many others have done.

“All farmers are eternal optimists, and always believe that if they do a good job, things will get better,” he says.

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Jury Awards $2.4 Million To Woman Attacked By Cow – Drovers Magazine

A San Mateo, Calif., jury has awarded more than $2.4 million to a woman injured by a pet cow at a feed store in 2016.

A longtime customer of Azevedo Feed store, Elvina Pereira went to the store on April 23, 2016, to buy hay for her horses. Store employee Heather Claitor invited Pereira to see the store’s pet cow, Holly, who had recently given birth to two calves.

Pereira followed Claitor into the pen, and Holly, a black Angus cow, began rubbing her head against Pereira’s leg, according to a report in The Mercury News, published in San Jose. But as Claitor approached the calves, Holly suddenly put her head down and charged Pereira, hitting her in the chest and pinning her against a post.

The mother of twin boys was rushed to Stanford Medical Center, where she spent two days in intensive care with two displaced and eight broken ribs. Pereira, who still suffers from neck and back pain that limits her activities, sued the Azevedo Corporation, owned by the Wilbur and Cecelia Azevedo Family Trust.

After two days of deliberation, the jury awarded Pereira $114,600 for past medical bills, $1.3 million for future medical expenses, $250,000 for past pain and suffering, and $750,000 for future pain and suffering for a total of $2,452,825.

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When Mazie met Blonnie: 'Oreo cow' helps girl get through health crisis – TODAY

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March 15, 2019, 4:42 PM GMT / Source: TODAY

By A. Pawlowski

Everyone needs a little help from a friend when a health crisis strikes. When an ailing girl met a tiny calf, they formed a sweet bond that would help the young patient get through the tough times to come.

At 11, Mazie Bunn has had more doctors’ appointments than some people will have in a lifetime. She’s been plagued by mystery symptoms, a frightening diagnosis and ongoing health issues.

Her constant motivation to get better is Blonnie, an unusual pet that keeps her active and makes her feel loved.

“Blonnie has been Mazie’s backbone. They say God puts people and things into your life for a reason and that was our reason,” Emily Watkins-Bunn, Mazie’s mom, told TODAY.

The family lives on a farm in Zebulon, North Carolina, but had no animals until Blonnie entered the picture in 2015.

Mazie didn't enjoy sports, gymnastics aggravated her symptoms, so she was encouraged to try 4H. That's where she met Blonnie.Courtesy Emily Watkins-Bunn

Constant pain

By then, Mazie had endured frustrating symptoms since she was a baby, including hearing loss and ear problems that required multiple surgeries. When she was in preschool, she’d start throwing up or cry that her head hurt. Doctors blamed everything from ear infections to food allergies, but the problems continued. Regular MRIs showed nothing suspicious.

“All these trips that we made to the ER, a lot of times we were blown off — ‘Oh, it’s just a really bad headache,’” Watkins-Bunn remembers being told. “She would tell me her head hurt so bad that her brain would hurt.”

Mazie was right. An MRI with contrast finally revealed what was wrong in the fall of 2015. Mazie had a Chiari malformation: a condition that causes the cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls balance — to be pushed down into the spinal canal.

Headaches are the “hallmark sign” of a Chiari malformation, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted. Mazie also often dragged her feet and complained that her hands and feet were asleep, other classic symptoms. The ear problems were likely caused by the condition, too.

Oct. 27, 201803:22

“Her brain was hanging out of the hole in the back of the skull,” Watkins-Bunn said. “[Her neurosurgeon] said ,‘Your child probably doesn’t know what it’s like not to be in pain.’”

Mazie would need brain surgery, but when doctors at Duke University Hospital told her it would take place within days, she asked for a delay. The state fair was coming up and she wanted to show animals. Could the surgery wait?

Fascinated by ‘Oreo cows’

Earlier that year, Mazie was encouraged to try 4H. Since her own family didn’t keep animals, they’d drive the girl to a nearby farm full of “Oreo cows,” as Mazie would call them. The Belted Galloway cattle have a signature black-white-black pattern on their bodies.

That’s where Mazie was paired up with Blonnie, a tiny “Oreo” calf that was separated from its mom too soon by mistake, stunting its growth. It wasn’t much bigger than a dog at that point.

Mazie insisted on showing Blonnie at shows despite the calf's small size: "I don't care if she doesn't win. Everybody deserves a chance," she said.Courtesy Emily Watkins-Bunn

“She was like the little outcast cow and she was the one that nobody would pick. I think Mazie always felt like the outcast, too, and she thought everybody deserved a chance,” Watkins-Bunn said. “The two of them ended up being like two peas in a pod.”

The family believes Blonnie sensed when Mazie wasn’t feeling well and was protective of the little girl. Mazie insisted on displaying Blonnie in shows, not caring the calf wouldn’t win any prizes because of her small size.

Cheered up by FaceTime with Blonnie

With doctors allowing a brief delay so that Mazie could attend the state fair, the brain surgery took place in October 2015. It took nine hours for surgeons to remove a quarter size piece of Mazie’s skull to create more space for her cerebellum and relieve pressure on the spinal cord. They also removed the top two vertebrae that had been crushed by her brain.

The brain surgery left a signature scar on the back of Mazie's neck.Courtesy Emily Watkins-Bunn

Recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit afterwards, Mazie’s head and face were extremely swollen and she felt miserable. She didn’t want visitors, but she lit up when she was given the opportunity to FaceTime with Blonnie.

When Mazie was finally out of the hospital and reunited with Blonnie in person that December, it was like being greeted by a puppy, Watkins-Bunn said: “That little cow was so excited — she mooed and mooed. She knew her person was back.”

Blonnie’s owner surprised Mazie by gifting her the calf, so the family built a barn on their farm and now owns four other cows.

Mazie has had more health challenges that sometimes require her to use a wheelchair. Her bond with Blonnie is still strong.Courtesy Emily Watkins-Bunn

Mazie has had more health challenges, including being diagnosed with epilepsy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a disorder that affects connective tissues. The family has gotten her a wheelchair for extra support when she needs it, but doctors have encouraged Mazie to keep showing cows as a way to stay active to keep her body strong.

That’s where Blonnie is still helping Mazie. Now weighing close to 1,000 pounds, she still knows when the girl is having a bad day. Mazie walks to the barn every day to see her friend — a powerful motivation to keep moving despite her health challenges. The special bond makes her work harder, her mom said.

“Had Blonnie not been in Mazie’s life, I think she would have probably gone into a shell. I think she would not have made progress,” she noted. “It’s almost like it was meant to be… they needed each other.”

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When mama cow is angry, steer clear – Manitoulin Expositor

Even with the sun clearly setting, the Wilkins are hard at work on the family farm, located just west of
Little Current.
photo by Michael Erskine

LITTLE CURRENT—Manitoulin beef and dairy farmer Bud Wilkin has been working with large animals for much of his life and, at age 84, he has certainly racked up an impressive amount of experience—but even he has found himself on the wrong end of an angry bovine much to his dismay, and not a little bit of pain.

“It was a couple of years ago,” recalled Mr. Wilkin. “You have got to be very careful. Too often you get busy and that’s when you can find yourself in a bit of trouble.”

The cow in question had been a bit of a handful, but on this occasion she was one very angry mom. “She came at us pretty severely, you get one like that every now and then. But we survived it and are the wiser for it.”

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Just getting around in the cattle yard can be chancy this time of year. Mr. Wilkin has had a hip replacement and finds he goes a little slower these days. “It is very tricky,” he said. “There is a lot of ice and a lot of snow with a crust of ice.”

Mr. Wilkin raises beef cattle, around 65 head, and milks 35 cows, but he is one of a dwindling number these days. “There were about 38 dairy producers when we started,” he said. “Now we are one of only three.” But Mr. Wilkin said that he has no intention of stopping yet. “I can’t do things as quickly as I used to,” he said. “But as long as I am of some help I will keep at it.”

When it comes to safety around dairy and beef cattle there are a number of strategies that have helped reduce injuries. 

The Successful Farming website has some great tips from animal scientist and handling expert Dr. Ron Lemenager of Purdue University. 

One concept is to reduce shadows, colour contrasts and noise. Cattle have been prey for much of their evolution, they want to take flight when they can’t see what’s ahead. Shadows and odd colour patterns can confuse and stop them. When working a chute, consider the sun angles and light sources. Reduce shadows by putting solid sides on chutes and crowd pens. Artificial light directly overhead will also help produce fewer shadows. Since cattle also balk at noises, reduce the clamour from dangling chains or rattling head gates.

A cattle drive on a rural road is not an unfamiliar sight on Manitoulin.
Expositor file photo

Always remember that when working with cattle in an open pen or pasture paddock, their blind spot is directly behind. They won’t respond to commands or arm signals if you are in that location. Try to work to the side, about 30 degrees to 35 degrees off of straight behind. This is a point of balance from where cattle are more likely to respond to your signals. 

It is best to have at least two holding pens with a gate between them that lets you easily sort cows from calves and take a look at locking head gate designs: straight neck bars, curved bars, scissors and full opening, or even a swinging saloon-door design—all of these can work, but all also have disadvantages, say the experts. Look for a design that securely locks the bars on an animal’s neck with a positive engagement latch and notch locks that can’t slip.

Consider adding a brisket bar, a cow palpation gate and palpation cage protection for pregnancy checks. The brisket bar keeps the cow from going down on her front knees. You want a side door to get in the chute behind her and you must be shielded from the next cow in line. 

Prevent turning by making sure working alleys and chutes are ideally 18 inches wide for calves and 30 inches wide for cows. The walls should be five feet tall and sturdy enough to contain the biggest cows in the herd. 

Consider a Bud Box to prevent cattle from going back in the direction from which they came. This is a holding pen that leads into the working chute around 12 by 20 feet in dimensions. The entry gate is placed next to the chute entrance so when the cow attempts to go back through the same gate they entered, they funnel into the chute. 

Many of these ideas leverage the cow’s natural instincts.

Ensure your calving pens have enough room to maneuver a calf jack (a long and cumbersome tool for moving calves). Create some wide spaces or side panels that easily move to allow for the jack.

Make sure there is traction on the concrete floors of chutes and working pens. Dr. Lemenager suggests a severe broom finish on the concrete isn’t adequate. Bolting wood strips or rebar to the floor, with openings wide enough for their feet, can help modify a smooth concrete floor. 

Put gates in the direction you want cattle to move in a paddock, with alleyways to connect pastures and paddocks—so if you usually move cattle in a northerly direction through alleyways, put your gates in the north corners of the paddocks. As creatures of habit, the pathways will become routine to the cows.

Gates into paddocks should be a full 16 feet wide, rather than 12, and alleyways should measure 20 to 30 feet wide. 

Finally, make it easy for your animals to slake their thirst. A thirsty cow is not a happy cow.

There are, of course, many other ways to increase safety on the farm, these are just a few ideas that can help reduce risks while dealing with large animals.

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