The other side of hobby farming

Sometimes in life things do not always work out like we plan. Last week I had a bit of a setback in my hobby farming operation and that is what this week’s column is all about.

Tuesday, March 15

High 57, Low 32

Here was the plan! My truck is loaded with fishing gear. In 10 minutes I am getting in it and heading to Lynxville on the Mississippi River to spend 48 hours fishing for walleye and perch on Hubbard’s Fishing Float. I’ll be fishing with my buddy, Gary Howe, who lives in Prairie du Chien.

I had one last thing to do before heading to Crawford County for what is always a really fun trip and that was to feed my four hereford steers. I raise four steers each year.

Extremely bad luck came my way when I went in the shed and saw that one of my 500-pound steers had chronic bloat. In simple words, the steer was not able to release gas, was huge in the belly area and if I did nothing about it would be dead in a day or so.

The first thing that I did was call my old buddy, Greg Soley, who raises beef cattle and get his advice. Greg said he would be right over and when he looked at my obviously uncomfortable steer he said, “You gotta call a vet.”

Now folks you have to understand it is 1:30 p.m. and Gary has taken the next couple of days off from work. Bill Hubbard has two bunks reserved for us on his float and I am going to be running out of daylight when you also include the drive.

So I call Hedrick Wiley who has been my small animal vet forever and was about to try to save my steer.

The steer is so uncomfortable that it lets Greg and I put a rope around its neck and tie it to a fence post with ease. Hedrick takes three needles that are hollow inside and inserts them into its stomach wall from the animal’s left side.

The steer deflates, I am happy, Hedrick leaves and before Greg can get back in his truck it is gassing up again.

I call Hedrick and he says keep it moving, which I did for the next five hours, thus bailing on day one of our fishing trip.

At 5:30 p.m., Selina comes home from track practice and the steer is as big as the Goodyear blimp. About dark we tied the animal to a tree and Selina and I worked a garden hose from its mouth all the way into its stomach.

The steer deflated and all was well. Seconds later, the animal filled back up and I have to admit I was getting frustrated.

At this time, Greg pulls back in the driveway and we do the hose thing again and have the same results. It is now about dark, I am supposed to be at Lynxville at sunrise and the call is made to doc Wiley.

A radical move where I stab it in the side of the stomach with a fillet knife is going to happen. I can only go in about 3 inches. On my first attempt I did not use enough force and the knife bounces off.

On attempt No. 2 I proved I am worthy of being a brain surgeon. The knife goes in 3 inches and the beautiful smell of methane takes over our world.

Greg literally runs to his truck before something else can go wrong and I stayed in the barnyard to watch my animal. Twenty minutes later, the steer fills back up and by myself I do the knife job two more times with no luck.

In case you are wondering, this had like no effect on the animal. In fact he was wandering around with the other steers and just hung out in the pasture.

Wednesday, March 16

High 53, Low 35

My steer was peacefully hanging out in the pasture this morning with a belly looking like he was 16 months pregnant. Our fishing trip was canceled for a week and doc Wiley is on his way over to save the day.

With ease we tied him to a tree and doctor Wiley installed what is called a Trocar in one of the very small and unnoticeable knife wounds. The Trocar is about thesizeofaaman’sfingerand designed to work like a narrow funnel that lets gas out and hopefully does not become blocked.

As bad as all this seemed and it was stressful, the steer is alive and kicking nine days later. To put things in perspective, my 24-year old stepson, Travis Dushek, who lives in a house on stilts on the Wisconsin River, had serious stress himself.

Trav’s world was flooding. He could only get to his truck/house by boat. His propane tank was trying to float away and in the midst of all of this he told me that he loves living where he does (near Portage), even though he was enduring his second flood in 90 days.

I came close to putting a bullet in that steer and making some burger, and am glad that I didn’t.


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