Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand worthless words.


September 10, 2012 by dairycarrie

I see photos all over that are taken out of context. From animal rights activists making something out of nothing to politicians trying to make you believe what they want you to believe. If you saw this photo, what would you think is going on?


Do you see a cow being abused? Do you see something you’re not certain of but don’t like?  Do you see a photo that could be used against a farmer? What do you think this photo is showing? There is no caption to tell you what to think. The only way to understand this photo is to either know what is happening from experience or to look at what the comments on the photo have to say.

This cow is injured. She was in labor and her calf got stuck. I usually check cows in the middle of the night when I think someone is going to calve. She didn’t give me any signs she was going to calve that night so I went to bed. In the morning we found her laying on her side. Her calf was still stuck and it was dead. She was beat up and tired and I felt horrible. We helped her deliver the calf the rest of the way and we did what we could to make her better. After doing everything we could to help her she still was unable to get up. A cow that can’t get up will loose circulation to her legs and it will go down hill from there. When a cow suffers from calving paralysis, which is what it’s called when a calf puts pressure on the nerve that runs through the hips and down the leg and causes the cow to not be able to get up, it’s never a good thing. Our best option at the time was to try and lift her so that her legs could regain circulation.

So how do you life a cow? a band around her middle isn’t really an option, her udder is in the way and her front half is much heavier than her back half. The float tank to lift the whole cow works sometimes but it takes time for the tank to get there and for the cow to get set up in it.  The longer she sits, the more swelling and problems have time to set in. The fastest option is to try and lift her using a device called a hip lift.

This is what the hip lift looks like. As you can see in this photo the lift is designed to go around the cows hip bones. The loop that goes around the cow’s hip bones are padded to try and make it more comfortable.


Here is the view from behind. You can see how the lift sits on the cows hips to support her weight.

So once the hip lift is on the cow we use a skid loader to lift her weight. Remember a Holstein cow weighs 1200-2000lbs. We will hold her up for 20-30 minutes allowing her to try and put weight on her leg while being supported by the hip lift and skidloader. We will also make sure that we give her an anti inflammatory before we start this to help with the swelling that can be pinching the nerve and to help with any pain she might be in. After 20-30 minutes will will lower the skid loader and allow her to either stand if she wants or lay back down. Then we will give her some time, a few hours usually and ask her to get up again on her own. If she still can’t do it we will lift her again with the hip lifts and repeat this process until she can do it on her own.

So a picture can be worth a thousand words. Please take the time to make sure the words with the photo aren’t worthless.



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28 thoughts on “Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand worthless words.

  1. Sandra S. says:

    It looked like you were giving her a massage. 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss 🙁 Thanks for sharing information on such a hard topic.

  3. Caryl Velisek says:

    Pictures are worth a thousand words. When my husband was managing a feedlot near Baltimore some years ago, some PETA people broke into the small slaughter house we often sent cattle to, on a weekend when no one was around, and actually faked photos of animals being mistreated and gave them to the newspapers.

  4. Steph says:

    Been through this ourselves a time or two. I pray that she has a quick and full recovery! One of the things I don’t like waking up to in the morning! There are some times when I think that I should just sleep out there and watch them ALL night long! Thankfully majority of calvings happen all by themselves. 🙂 Good Luck working on her!

  5. Love the LOVE you have for your animals!

  6. allisonsarah says:

    This is a really interesting post and great photos to go with it. You should submit them for Canon’s Project Imaginat10n:

  7. Very well said, Carrie. Thank you for sharing this story.

  8. My first time on a dairy farm I saw them working through this…. even though I have those photos that are a thousand words plus (I loved getting a text next day saying she was fine), I didn’t know how to write it out. Thanks for putting words to the experience I saw. maybe I can borrow some of your info and finally get my own post written. Thanks for all you do.

  9. Bryan Quanbury says:

    Great one Carrie, Your words put pictures into perspective.

  10. Carrie says:

    Great article!!!! How is the cow doing?

  11. Becca says:

    Also noteworthy is how calm she and her herdmates seem to be.

  12. cele says:

    Tremendous job – I shared on my facebook page !
    these are a great tool we have used numerous times on our farm – with the use of this many cows will eventually stand on their own perhaps after a difficult birth or even injury from a bull mounting them improperly during breeding time – this gives them the “jumpstart” they need to get up and get going – of course there are times when things dont turn out as you wish however appreciative of this tool on our farm ! Keep up the great work !!!

    • celeste settrini (@couturecowgirl7) says:

      Goodness – typing way too fast today but my post should be listed from celeste settrini – thanks – not cele or should or whatever crazy stuff is posted 🙂 thanks

  13. Love it! YOU are awesome whole heartedly agree with Barnyard Barbie’s statement!

  14. Rob says:

    Excellent. Had a few down myself in my time. (Beef cattle) Unfortuntely Didnt have a lift Had to get the vet with his injection. Manually turn the cow over every half hour. Keep her propped up. Generally they recovered but very labor intensive. Still they have to have a chance

  15. Great Post and perspective Carrie! Keep up the good work!

  16. Great article!!!! My Aunt told me that she saw a video at a confrence and they were trying to say this trap was inhumane because the wolf was growling and acting out. Then she realized that someone of camera was obviously trying to agitate the wolf to get the scene they wanted.

  17. sandy says:

    How did she make out? You are lucky she supported the front end, it always looks horrible when there is no cow support and they just hang there.

  18. Lorna says:

    It’s tough when that happens isn’t it especially when you beat yourself up for a while for not checking during the night – been there and done that but we can’t be everywhere and we need sleep. Sorry to hear she had to be sold but you did what you could

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  21. matt says:

    some people just don’t understand when cows go down you can’t lift them up without machinery or come along.

  22. Wendy says:

    I’ve seen this done before. It’s amazing how quick people are to say you’re wrong when they have no idea what is going on in the photo.

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