Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

May 4, 2014

NOW HEAR THIS: Of lice and men (and cattle)

Mineral Wells Index


With all due respect to John Steinbeck’s oft-time controversial novel, “Of Mice and Men,” we have a slightly different problem down on the “pore farm.” It doesn’t involve mice or hobos. Our problems involve lice and cattle.

From my earliest recollection, I have been around cattle and other livestock. My parents and their ancestors before them were all livestock producers and farmers. Animal husbandry has been a key facet of our existence.

My Grandpa Jones was highly regarded throughout the community as a very astute, self-educated man with considerable skills as a veterinarian. Since he was born almost a half a century before Texas A&M’s School of Veterinary Medicine was founded, grandpa’s credentials were amassed through books he ordered by mail and experience working with sick animals – both his own and those of neighbors. When anyone in the area had ailing livestock, grandpa was the “go to guy.” I recall that even in his late eighties, he was never happier than when he was doctoring a sick cow or horse.

For whatever the reason, somehow I never plucked that particular gene off the family tree. I suppose I’m a bit too much of a control freak, and dealing with animals, particularly sick ones, can be quite frustrating for someone who likes his rows straight and all his “ducks in a perfect row.”

This year, it seems like my cattle have been plagued with more than a normal amount of parasites, especially lice. The older I get, the less inclined I have become to getting out there in the corral and spray, dust or apply assorted pour-on medications to deal with these parasites.

While it would be best to be a bit more vigilant in my animal husbandry practices, until this year it never seemed to be a high priority. While most of my cattle showed little or no ill effects to this heavier -than-normal plague of lice and flies, a couple of my older cows began looking “poorly.” Coming off a harder-than-normal winter with large calves sucking them down, they were getting in bad shape.

A few weeks ago, with my trusty feed bucket, I was able to get both of them in the corral, leaving those big greedy calves on the outside. After a few sacks of 20 percent breeder cubes, a dose of pour-on parasite medication, a weekly spraying for flies and no calves, the old girls are starting to cast a much wider shadow.

In grandpa’s day, cattle parasites were controlled by dipping them in community dipping vats containing a mixture of oil, water and a weak arsenic solution. The USDA created an extensive program in the late 1800s to dip cattle throughout the southern states to stamp out ticks responsible for spreading Texas tick fever which killed thousands of Northern cattle exposed to Texas trail drive herds.

The program lasted into the World War II era. I recall seeing the local vat on Oscar Bish’s ranch on Grindstone Creek west of Brock. Cattle were driven for miles to use this facility.

While controlling parasites in our livestock is much easier today, I still view it as a “lousy” job. Grandpa Jones may have loved to doctor sick animals, but I can assure you that genetic trait skipped my generation.  

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.