Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tips from my mum's farm near Canberra

My mum moved onto a farm a few years ago and ever since it's been nothing but cows, cows, cows. She studied as a genetic biologist, but she's always been more interested in the, ah, hands-on side of the animal kingdom. She'll happily dive in to pull a grass seed out of a cow's eye or give them a nice milking in the morning.

Cows are ruminants, with very complicated digestive systems designed to get nutrition out of the cellulose from grasses (which our human stomachs could never handle.) When these marvelous intricate systems go wrong, however, "explosive" is an understatement for the hurricane-like results, and I'm not surprised that cow farts make a major contribution to the greenhouse effect.

If one of your cows is afflicted with bloat, it's a serious and potentially fatal situation. The thing to do is immediately pour a gallon of castor oil down his throat. Then stand him on a hill pointing up and give his stomach a massage. The tilt will help gas rise up his throat and he'll be able to let a few good burps rip, which will relieve the pressure.

I'm not even going to tell you what's involved in a last-minute cow caesarean in a ditch, using only a bit of string, dishwashing gloves and a tea towel.


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