Saturday, October 27, 2012

vaccines and pregnancy

let me just start by saying this.  if women were pregnancy checked in the manner of yaks, the baby boom would have never happened.  i'm not naive enough to have thought we could get a 500 pound yak to pee on a stick...but i kinda secretly thought there was some sort of blood test involved. nope. not how it works.  i am in awe of a vet that can not only feel for a fetus, but can give a good estimation of how far along a cow may be.  
i have a friend whom  is a dairy farmer.  she tells me that a good vet can get it down to within a few days. simply amazing. wonder if i asked him to reach into my freezer he could tell me how old that crown roast is.  nerdy party tricks, table of one.
we spent the early parts of the morning doing chores, feeding the dogs, and checking for signs of late night predator visitors.  our intention was to have a nice hearty breakfast before meeting up with the local vet.  
when we purchased the ranch, we inherited 3 yaks.  these yaks, while appearing healthy, had not had a vet visit in the 7 years (3 for the baby) on the property.  it is true that yaks are not necessarily susceptible to the common disease of cattle, however they are not immune.  the previous landowners had used the property to run cattle, so the opportunity for common ailments to infect the yaks is there.  mike and i believe that there is no benefit in NOT vaccinating these animals, so we asked our caretaker to arrange for a vet to come for a visit.  
i have read that yaks breed in the late summer months, which is very different than the anecdotal information we had been given.  the gentleman that sold us the yaks told me that Lucky typically calves in january or february. we had imagined that if she or Coop were pregnant, they would be quite far along by now.  
Lucky hasn't been so fortunate in the child rearing arena.  it isn't entirely clear, but we have been able to gather that she almost died a few years ago while calving, but the caretaker was able to pull the twisted and still-born calf and nurse Lucky back to health.  there are stories of a premature still birth in the back pasture, and of what appears to have been a live birth, but subsequent death of a seemingly healthy calf.  she only has Coop, and Coop, at 3, is of breeding age as well.
yaks are meant to have trouble free pregnancies and easy calving.  i confirmed with the original breeder that it was unlikely that Trox and Lucky are related, so it is unknown why she has had such challenging pregnancies.  i know she is just an animal, but i feel for her.  for no reason, other than the bulls and cows live together all year round, i was pretty confident we had two pregnant cows on our hands, and would be looking forward to baby yaks that could possibly share a birthday with me.
cut to the vet's visit
mike and i took our breakfast to go, and brought it back up to the house knowing we would have to eat after we tended to the yaks. high on 3 cups of coffee and an empty stomach, i changed into muck boots and an old sweatshirt (mike changed his socks), grabbed my camera, and jumped on the back of the atv.  we headed to the lower pasture ready for our first real ranch chore.
the vet had not yet arrived, which turned out to be a blessing, as the yaks were not at all interested in cooperating with our plans.  the rev of the atv alerted them that something was awry and they began to run and scatter as if a predator had entered the pen. it took several attempts to move them into the chute and squeeze. but once they were in, they became calm and resigned to their fate.  we have a little footage to share:

you may have heard.  Coop is not pregnant, which is not a bad thing.  Trox is Coop's father.  while they do not have the same moral stigma associations in the animal world, it still is not a good idea to interbreed.  Lucky is pregnant, but very newly..maybe 30 days.  which means, rather than calving in the winter, she will be calving late spring, early summer.  
the animals were all vaccinated, de-wormed, checked for sores, and given a dose of fly repellent and sent on their way. we were left with decisions.  the vet gave us options for Lucky.  it would be simple to terminate her pregnancy if we weren't interested in increasing our herd.  i felt a bit repulsed by the notion, but also not sure if we do indeed want to grow the herd. it was also suggested that we think about getting rid of Cooper, to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.  again, not sure where we should go with this.  the property is certainly big enough to separate out the herd, but without a real intention for the animals, we are not ready to make those decisions. thankfully we have some time.  good news is all the animals seem really healthy and only need consistent de-worming and maybe a good brushing out.  
my research for the last couple of days has wandered around yak pregnancy, calving and nutrition.  i hope that a little attention to Lucky's nutrition will make a difference in her pregnancy this time around.  i think it is worth a shot.  we picked up 100 lbs of alfalfa pellets as a nice treat, and plan on a good quality forage to start.
i wonder what this little herd of yak has in store for us.  i wonder if 5 years from now, our herd will grow to mostly bottle-fed tamed females that we milk as if cattle. or if it will still be our original three plus an offspring or two. 

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