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Rescue Service Floats Cows To Their Feet
Equipment to save downed cows by floating them in warm water has been around for a while. The Danish-built Aqua Cow Riser System was introduced in the U.S. in the early 1990’s. Steve Kraak uses the equipment as part of a full-blown cow rehab service, Aqua Lift, run from his Monticello, Wis., farm.

    Instead of using the Aqua Cow Riser system at his clients’ farms, he transports their downed cows to his facility. “I spend a couple hours a day with each cow,” he says.

    The Aqua Cow Riser trailer is filled with warm water (minimum of 700 gal.) to get the cow back on its feet while only bearing about 25 percent of its body weight. Most operators keep a cow in the trailer for 4 to 6 hrs., but Kraak averages 18 to 24 hrs.

    “I can save more cows with one long float rather than having to repeat it a second time,” says Kraak. After 17 years floating cows and 20 years working in dairy nutrition, he has plenty of experience.

    After a session in a heated barn, the cow is turned out on a sand pack floor, which has the best footing and bedding for a recovering cow.

    Within a couple of days, cows downed by milk fever or those having trouble calving are usually ready to go home. They have the best success rate - 70 and 80 percent, respectively.

    Cattle that have fallen and sustained leg injuries can be more difficult to save and usually take longer, up to 1 1/2 weeks, and longer in some cases.

    “I have had one cow 2 1/2 months that can walk, but drags her hind leg, that is carrying a valuable heifer,” Kraak says.

    Cost for the initial float runs $280 to $300.

    “To me, any cow that has a chance to survive, we should try,” he notes.

    Summer has traditionally been his busiest time with 30 to 50 cows a month requiring treatment. But winter work has greatly increased since he started working in his heated barn, and Kraak has many beef producer clients in the fall and spring with cows having calving issues.

    Using a flotation tank rather than slings and older techniques is growing in popularity with producers and veterinarians.

    “Floating is the most humane way to deal with a down cow,” Kraak says.

    But, he notes, it doesn’t save every animal, such as a cow with a dislocated hip, for example. He asks producers several questions to determine if flotation is worth trying. Typically, Kraak travels up to 60 to 70 miles to pick up animals, but will travel farther for additional mileage fees.

    Most of his charges are bovine, but Kraak adds that he has worked with horses, buffalo and one elephant. Despite renting a dumpster to float a 7,900-lb. elephant and getting her to stand, the 49-year-old elephant didn’t survive, he says.

    “No two cases are ever the same,” he says. He finds the work satisfying, especially when he successfully revives a cow or figures ways to improve his rehab services.

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Steve Kraak, N5299 Feldt Rd., Monticello, Wis., 53570 (ph 608 751-3905; skraak36@gmail.com; Facebook: Aqua Lift).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1