Creating a First Aid Kit for Livestock
Keep These First Aid Kit Contents on Hand in Case of a Livestock Emergency
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When it comes to a first aid kit contents list and their uses, you’ll find that many common items can be used on different species of livestock. Having some basic items always available in your emergency kit means you’re better prepared for problems that might arise, whether it’s a dairy goat that’s been bitten by a dog and has deep wounds, or a chicken struggling with bumblefoot.
I’ve learned the hard way that having certain items on hand in case of an emergency is much better than driving from store to store with two small kids in tow. During one experience in recent memory, I had a sick goat, and I looked all over our small rural area for activated charcoal. Loading and unloading two cranky toddlers in and out of car seats as I searched from store to store was definitely not fun!
Additionally, you definitely don’t want to get caught off guard if an animal suddenly becomes injured or sick. These events are stressful enough, especially if you’re new to livestock. Having everything on hand before you need them lets you react to an incident in a more meaningful way. In short, you will have an easier time helping the sick or injured animal if you have what you need.
You might also want to decide if your emergency kit will include only natural remedies, traditional Western medicine, or a combination of both. My personal kit is made up of both. If possible, I try to use natural remedies, especially with my chickens and goats, since I want to consume their eggs, meat, and milk. However, there are times when antibiotics or pain killers are necessary, so I like to keep them on hand.
At the end of this article, there is a detailed list of items you should keep in your first aid kit. You want to have some basic tools, such as disposable gloves, needles (ask your vet for their recommendations about sizes), syringes (you might be able to get these for free at your local pharmacy or vet clinic), non-adhesive pads and adhesive bandages.
Digital rectal thermometers are one commonly forgotten emergency essential that are crucial to understanding the health of your livestock. Quite a few times, I’ve had horses or goats displaying symptoms that could be attributed to many causes; their temperature might tell me whether I’m dealing with an infection or a hurt limb.
In one memorable case, we had a horse that refused to put weight on a leg. My husband, a former equine vet tech with the Army, claimed it was broken; I personally had no idea what was going on. It being a Friday night, our vet refused to come to the farm. We were unable to articulate her leg to see if it was broken since the mare kicked out whenever we got close (we had sedatives on hand, but I didn’t want to use them since she was already having difficulty balancing.) After seeing the mare had a slightly elevated temperature, we treated with antibiotics, and the following day, we were able to determine she had an infection in the limb and it wasn’t broken.
Another important item for your kit is bandage scissors, which have a flat edge on one tip to protect flesh when cutting a bandage off. Using regular scissors to remove a bandage can be tricky with livestock since they can jerk a limb suddenly and possibly injure themselves again.
Also be sure to ask your vet for recommendations for antibiotics and other medications to keep on hand (this will differ from species to species), as well as dosage amounts. Keeping a list of dosage amounts per species is very important; some medications are fine for one species but can cause a lot of problems in another. Additionally, having a handy list of the dosage amounts will save you time and stress later on. Nothing is worse than trying to reach a vet over the weekend to find out how much Banamine to give a 75-pound goat.
For wounds, burns, and abrasions, I prefer using honey. Particularly with chickens, I’ve found honey to be one of the best natural topical antibacterial remedies out there, and it’s usually my go-to for any cut, wound, or burn.
Diapers are one item on the list below that I should explain. Diapers are great to use if a large animal, such as a horse, has an open wound that is bleeding profusely. Diapers can often catch blood or pus more effectively than regular non-stick pads, simply because of the volume of fluid coming out of the animal.
Infections in horses, for example, can weep for weeks; non-stick pads are not as effective as newborn diapers for catching the leaking fluid. I smear antibiotic ointment on the diaper, then keep it close to the wound by binding it with a removable bandage topped by standing wraps.
Another item I should explain is goat milk. You should only include this if you breed your livestock. In a pinch, goat milk will work very well as a substitute for mother’s milk for many livestock species. Kids, kits (baby rabbits), foals, piglets, and lambs have a hard time digesting cow milk. If you have goat milk on hand, if you have an orphan, you’ll have a way to feed it until you can locate some colostrum or a substitute livestock-specific milk source.
Similarly, keeping colostrum on hand makes life easier if you suddenly need to bottle feed a weak piglet or orphaned lamb. You can buy a general livestock colostrum or a livestock-specific colostrum. I’ve had an easy time getting goat colostrum, but a harder time finding anything specific for piglets, so keeping both in your emergency kit is a good idea.
Although your family should practice fire drills often, you might want to consider putting fire evacuation procedures in your emergency kit. While it’s foolish to consult them for the first time if your barn is on fire, having them to refer to on a regular basis will let you respond to a barn fire effectively. (In addition to an emergency first aid kit, keeping a survival items list is a good idea, too).
To get you started preparing your emergency kit here’s a first aid kit contents list and their uses.
General First Aid Kit Contents
Triple antibiotic ointment
Comfrey salve (for sprains, strains, and rashes)
Activated charcoal (for poisonings)
Diapers (for large animals)
Extra dishes/waterers (to use in a sick bay)
Honey (for open wounds and burns)
Betadine (for cleaning wounds)
Alcohol (for cleaning wounds, cleaning equipment)
List of drug dosage amounts, based on species and weight
Blue Kote (for chickens)
Milk of Magnesia (for goats)
Newborn Diapers (for large livestock to catch blood)
SMZs (ask your vet for a prescription)
Penicillin (ask your vet when to use it and dosage amounts)
Bagged colostrum (general or livestock-specific)
While this first aid kit contents list and their uses certainly is not comprehensive, it should get you started off on the right foot. Being prepared for an animal emergency makes it easier to respond effectively, and will make a stressful situation simpler. To help you out, I prepared a downloadable list of the items you should include in your first aid kit, which you can grab here. You can also read more homesteading articles on my site, FrugalChicken.
Do you keep a livestock first aid kit in your home? If so, what are some of the essentials you use?