Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Farms and Vets and economics and reality

The brutal truth of farms is that in order to stay in business, you have to make a profit.  And to make a profit, you have to make hard choices.  One of those choices is whether or not you call the veterinary when something goes wrong. 

Calling the vet has two issues; one, is the treatment likely to result in a good result, and is it cost-effective to do the treatment at all. 

The black and white piglet in the forground has a rectal prolapse.  Part of the rectum is protruding outside the body, and it appears a little swollen and red.   So here's the brutal farm math:   Piglet in good condition, retails for $90, costs probably $45 to produce.  Veterinary visit to the farm is $190.  Office visit is $90. 

Several sources on the internet all agree that this may spontaneously go away -- no treatment -- or that it may become inflamed and eventually scar tissue forms and blocks the anus, or infection sets in.  Several different treatments are mentioned; manually replacing it and then purse-suturing the opening loosely, to prevent the tissue from re-emerging.  In cases where it's inflamed or necrotic (dead tissue) amputation is indicated. 

This is where farming diverges from having pets.  There's just no way you can make a profit on this little fellow if you treat him with a vet.  To keep the other pigs from biting on the exposed flesh you isolate the little pig and hope that it reverts. 

I've called a friend of mine who works for a local university assisting in animal surgery to see if she can reccomend a local anasthetic that I can buy.   Prolapses happen both with the anus and with the vagina, and I'm willing to try a surgical solution to this little pigs problem in the interest of being able to treat sows with prolapsed vaginas in the future.   I'll be practicing a purse suture tonight. 

But what I'd like you, the reader, to understand the next time you hear about a farmer killing a small animal, is that it's not unusual, or cruel, or even something that the farmer wants to do.  It just needs to be done.  As swiftly and kindly as possible. 


NY Farmer said...

The first thing I would do is at least separate the pig from the rest of the group and put her in own quarters. And if you don't want to treat him/her then see if you can sell it as a small roaster. Personally, I would treat the little guy because the prognosis is good.

Bruce King said...

How would you treat it?

damae said...

Well, I'd feed him some kelp, (healed a hemorrhoid I was developing in less than 8 hours) and I know that raw apple cider vinegar will prevent uterine prolapse in goats.

NY Farmer said...

I've never had to treat for one but I have read about it. First, isolate him from the rest of the group so the the other pigs don't try to bite it off. Sometimes the prolapse goes back in on it's own. The reason I said treat for it is because it's easily treatable by a vet or yourself and does'nt have to be a death sentence for the pig.

Bruce King said...

NY Farmer -- I'm guessing you missed the whole paragraph about vet costs and market price for this pig. That was the point of this particular post -- professional services are impossibly priced for a for-profit farm, so you do without.

Yes, I'm inclined to try treating it myself -- but I'm having trouble coming up with a local anastethic that I can buy legally that will work, and I'd rather not do it without anastethic. I can, sure. and I do a lot of stuff without it, but I'd prefer to do it with as little discomfort to the little guy as possible. The best idea I've gotten so far is to use human hemmoroid cream on him to reduce the discomfort, but I'm going to tell you that the suture is not going to be popular without numbing it up.

I've got him in a pen where he can see and touch snouts with the other pigs, and I'm keeping a close eye on him.

Across The Creek Farm said...

I've got a great vet who understands the difference btw a working dog and a pet. When I ask him a question he starts off with..."the cost compared to the gain...". He'll walk me through minor procedures that I can do on my own. He's gold.
Sick/hurt animals are a learning opportunity for me. I paid to raise them, so anything that I can learn to prevent/treat the problem in the future is less money lost.
I'm really intrested in how you deal with the situation and the outcome. Please keep us posted.

NY Farmer said...

I read your first paragraph about the vet cost. Maybe you should look for a new vet. I have a vet back here in upstate NY who charges $40 to come to the farm. He's a mobile vet and would probably charge me another $40 for the treatment,if that. Another thing, you always talk about checking the welfare of your animals so maybe you should consider this more of a welfare issue instead of worrying about making money or not.

Anonymous said...

Bruce - I think it is good you show this stuff. Now that most people have no contact with food animals, they are out of touch with the fact that not all of us live healthy perfect lives.

One thing you don't mention is that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. If you treat that pig, you've got to restrain and stress him. That easily might be worse than the condition you are treating.

The stress of treatment is one reason many farmers prefer to medicate (via water or feed) a whole group of pigs.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, I have been following your blog because we have recently added pigs to my husbands organic farm. But in addition to pig farming, I am an OB/GYN. The whole time I was reading about this pig, I was thinking hemorrhoid cream might work: it is an anti-inflammatory as well as a topical anesthetic. Try the hemorrhoid cream for a few days, then try to reduce the prolapse yourself. If you have to suture, another topical anesthetic that is available over the counter is Solarcaine.