One of the greatest dangers to the safety and even life of an Iowa farmer is their livestock. Two Iowa farmers in one week have died after attacks by bulls on their own farms. Iowa State University Veterinarian Doctor Bruce Leuschen has seen such cases before, and says it saddens him.
Lueschen says it could happen any time of the year, the veterinarian says, and any time of any day. It becomes more likely as a calf matures and aggression becomes a part of his nature as a bull. Leuschen just started March first providing care on I-S-U’s livestock farms as well as doing some teaching at the College of Veterinary Medicine and the animal-science department at the College of Agriculture.
Leuschen says a dairy bull in particular is dangerous, because it’s likely been hand-raised on the farm and is comfortable around humans. When puberty begins and the testosterone begins to make it aggressive it’ll turn on the people, whereas a beef animal out in the field hasn’t lost its fear of them.
Leuschen says livestock farmers know about the danger, and it’s one reason many don’t keep bulls today. In fact, the vet says it’s one reason breeding by artificial insemination has become so popular, so farmers don’t have the inherent risk of a bull on the farm.
Farming’s a dangerous job with powerful machinery, dangerous situations and other animals that pose a risk, though Leuschen says dairy bulls are the most dangerous animal among the livestock. He says the farmer needs to be cognizant every moment of just where that bull is, and sometimes when they see the animal getting more aggressive as time goes by, they’ll get rid of the bull. Leuschen says a cow can be aggressive protecting a new calf, though typically that only happens during calving season.
Leuschen’s worked as a farm-animal vet for more than two decades in northeast Iowa and co-owned a veterinary clinic in Postville.