Lifting Downer Cows

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Willunga Vet Services
37 Main Rd
Willunga
SA 5172

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Phone:
8556 2075
Fax:
8556 2654

Aldinga Vet Services
16 Heathersay Ave
Aldinga Beach
SA 5173

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Phone:
8556 5498

 

We all know how difficult and time consuming it is to nurse downer cows, especially when they have gone down in a difficult spot. In a perfect world we would move all our downer cows to a comfortable spot that's close to the shed and lift them three times a day until they recover. Lifting these cows and moving them easily without causing further injury can be a challenge.

 

OPTIONS FOR LIFTING DOWN COWS

1: Slings

There are two types of slings available. Both are variations of support under the brisket and stomach with either holes for the legs and udder to fit into or straps to go between the legs. Over the top of the cow is a frame or hooks that support the adjustable straps and are a lifting point for the front end loader of a tractor.

 Problems with Slings:

They are very difficult to put on the cow

They are difficult to get off the cow without her tripping up as she walks away

The straps under the legs affect circulation to the limbs if the cow is slung for any length of time

 

2: Hip lifters

Hip Lifters by themselves are really only useful to help a cow up that is ready to stand - a short quick lift. They are easy to attach and using them mimics the normal standing of a cow - rear end first.

Problems with Hip Lifters

They can cause severe bruising even if padded

Then can slip off if not applied tightly enough and this often results in hip dislocation

They can cause severe bruising if the cow is hung in them for any length of time, or if lifted multiple times

They are of little use if the cow will not stand on her front feet.

 

3: The best of both - Hip lifter and a strap together with forks on a tractor

Approach the down cow from behind with the tractor.

The hip lifter is hug from the base of the front end loader with the points of the forks over the back of the cow

After applying the hip lifter (padded with towels or sacks) attach a strap from the point of one fork under the brisket and up onto the other fork.

The strap takes most of the weight of the cow, the hip lifter just balances the back end

Advantages:

Its easy and quick to apply single handed, even in awkward places

Most of the weight is taken by the strap - so minimal damage from the hip lifters

The cow can be transported long distances from the back of the farm

The cow is comfortable

Adjustment can be made as you go up and down slopes by adjusting the angle of the forks

The cow can be lifted over a fence (i.e. if she's down in a slippery yard)

The cow can safely walk with the sling on as circulation returns to her limbs

The strap can be removed easily and quickly without the cow tripping over it.

A strong tie down strap, or 4WD snatch strap is ideal. There are custom made belly straps that are designed to keep stock standing while in a crush that would also work well in this situation. These have a wider strap and also have an attached pad for the brisket. We can order these straps for you, they retail at around $300. Liz has one, so ask for a demo if you are interested.