Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hardware Disease

I always thought my dad made up this term but find it is a verified name of a cow malady, and possibly of other animals, too.

Every now and then, Dad would pen up a cow and shoot a magnet down its throat with that shiney metal cow pill-feeding gizmo.  I didn't often feel compassion for cows, but this was one of those times.  It pretty much activated my own gag reflex, and the cows weren't too happy about it either.

Apparently cows, with their four stomachs, cannot pass a magnet through their digestive systems, so the magnet just hangs out and gathers the random metal things cows eat.  I could never figure out why a cow would swallow a piece of barbed wire in the first place, let alone a hunk of metal that fell off a piece of farm equipment. You'd think the crunch of breaking teeth would alert them, but I'd be first in line to name them as the dumbest animals on earth.

Well do I recall an incident from when I was a young child, probably six or seven.  It was a rare occasion when a vet was called to our farm (I cannot recall his name, though I'm pretty sure it wasn't James Herriot).  First, the cow was locked in her stansion and fed some oats to keep her occupied.  Second, Mr. Vet gave her some deadening shots. Shockingly, he then sliced a sizeable hole in her side.  What happened next seemed surreal but I couldn't avert my eyes.  He inserted his hand into her side and proceeded to remove handsful of gobs of partially-digested hay, laden with an incredible amount of hardware...barbed wire, machinery parts and, of course, the big magnet.

 Some of the magnets were cylinder-shaped and some you could run your thumb along like a section of metal celery.  They were about three inches long, quite heavy, and expensive enough to keep for another time.  They were pretty powerful and I remember playing with a couple of them, always fascinated by their magical power.  They apparently still use this tool today.