Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — As the grass in the Wallowa Valley greens up cattle are herded to summer pasture. For cows and the horses that help move them, spring is an important time for veterinary care.

Ranch livestock typically spend their winter months on farms isolated from other herds. In the spring, however, tens of thousands of cow and calf pairs are turned out to graze the lush grass of the county’s prairies and forests. A combination of examinations, tooth and hoof care, vaccinations and parasite control can help boost health for the months on the range.

When readying livestock for grazing season, veterinarian Jereld Rice said, the first line of defense is a series of vaccinations for young calves to prevent upper respiratory disease, parasite control and sexually transmitted diseases. Weaned calves are vaccinated again after the fall round up.

“Vaccinations help them be more resistant to disease in the summer and when shipped to the feedlot,” Rice said.

Veterinarian Michelle Janik said horses are inoculated against tetanus, West Nile, encephalitis, the flu, herpes, rabies and leptospirosis. She said deworming serves as an immunity booster before livestock head to the range.

“When people move horse to brandings or competitions they won’t be as affected to exposure,” Janik said.

Rice said horses and cattle benefit from products that combat external parasites that make livestock uncomfortable like lice and biting flies.

“Spring” calving season starts in January and continues in March for most Wallowa County ranchers when the weather can be frigid, wet, windy and even on occasion, mild. Keeping new calves healthy from the time they hit the ground to the time they are sold is an investment in time and health care. Sometimes a rancher is faced with tough
decisions when herd health comes in conflict with economics. Rice said this winter Janik did some unusual doctoring by casting three calves with broken legs.

It’s pretty rewarding to put a cast on a calf and have it heal up,” Rice said.

Spring and early summer is when most of the county’s cattle are bred. Rice said bulls are checked for breeding soundness to make sure they are satisfactory breeders.

“One of things we check is if they walk well,” Rice said.

Rice said reproductive organs are checked to ensure they are healthy and bulls are tested for trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause a cow to miscarry her calf.

For female horses and cows that are going to be artificially inseminated, Rice said ovaries are tested to see if they are ready to ovulate.

For horses, the spring check-up is a good time to do a Coggins test for equine infectious anemia, a disease that can cause severe red cell loss and horses can die from it. Also called swamp fever, Rice said there is no vaccine for equine infectious anemia and historically has not been a big issue, but a negative test result is required for interstate travel and changing ownership.

“Spring and summer are the times most people travel with their horses,” Rice said.

Rice said it is important to get hooves trimmed well in the spring and a time when horses heading to the range are shoed.

When the grass greens up, Rice said livestock owners need to pay close attention to what their horses are eating.

“The grass is so rich here and we have great fluctuations of temperature from day to night,” Rice said.

That richness combined with the temperature fluctuations, which changes the grass’ sugar content, can cause laminitis or “founder” when the bone inside the hoof rotates, a painful condition.

“Some horses are very susceptible to changes in sugar,” Rice said. “As horses get fat eating our good grass it increases their susceptibility laminitis.”

Filing down horses teeth, commonly referred to as “floating” doesn’t have to be done in the spring, but Rice said it makes sense to do it along with an annual equine check-up before horses are readied for their seasons of use.

“Sharp teeth can cause discomfort in the bit,” Rice said.

He said “floating” teeth before winter can be helpful for older horses who are not maintaining weight well and help them eat.

On a spring afternoon Becky Wolfe brought two of her four horses into Enterprise Animal Hospital for their spring vet visit. Wolfe’s horse, Rod, was mildly sedated as Janik guided a grinder over the 16 year-old horse’s teeth. Rod had sharp and uneven points on his teeth and they were making it harder to eat.

Janik said while floating is helpful to older horses, it is done more often in younger horses when they are losing their teeth and their mouths are changing a lot.

Wolfe said she feels the check-ups are an important part of caring for a horse.

“It’s cheap insurance,” Wolfe said. “It’s hard to get a horse to do everything you want, so you want that horse to be as healthy as possible.”

that are going to be artificially inseminated, ovaries are tested to see if they are ready to ovulate, Rice said.

For horses, the spring check-up is a good time to do a Coggins test for equine infectious anemia, a disease that can cause severe red cell loss and can be fatal in horses. Also called swamp fever, Rice said there is no vaccine for equine infectious anemia, and historically it has not been a big issue. But a negative test result is required for interstate travel and changing ownership.

“Spring and summer are the times most people travel with their horses,” Rice said.

Rice said it is important to get hooves well trimmed in the spring, and a time when horses heading to the range are shoed.

When the grass greens up, livestock owners need to pay close attention to what their horses are eating.

“The grass is so rich here and we have great fluctuations of temperature from day to night,” Rice said.

That richness, combined with the temperature fluctuations, which changes the grass’ sugar content, can cause laminitis or “founder” when the bone inside the hoof rotates, a painful condition.

“Some horses are very susceptible to changes in sugar,” Rice said. “As horses get fat eating our good grass it increases their susceptibility to laminitis.”

Filing down horses teeth, commonly referred to as “floating,” doesn’t have to be done in the spring. But Rice said it makes sense to do it along with an annual equine check-up before horses are readied for their seasons of use.

“Sharp teeth can cause discomfort in the bit,” Rice said.

He said “floating” teeth before winter can be helpful for older horses who are not maintaining weight well and help them eat.

On a spring afternoon, Becky Wolfe brought two of her four horses into Enterprise Animal Hospital for their spring vet visit. Wolfe’s horse, Rod, was mildly sedated as Janik guided a grinder over the 16-year-old horse’s teeth. Rod had sharp and uneven points on his teeth and they were making it harder to eat.

Janik said while floating is helpful to older horses, it is done more often in younger horses when they are losing their teeth and their mouths are changing a lot.

Wolfe said she feels the check-ups are an important part of caring for a horse.

“It’s cheap insurance,” Wolfe said. “It’s hard to get a horse to do everything you want, so you want that horse to be as healthy as possible.”

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