Specifically, I am referring to the self-locking head locks for cattle. What are they, you ask, and why are they so important to the very fabric of society? Please read on, and I'll explain. If there was a Nobel Prize for Agriculture, and there should be, the inventor of the self-locking head locks should have been a recipient — twice. Instead, the anonymous innovator lives in obscurity unaware of the gratitude of the many beneficiaries of his (or her) genius.
My revelation came to me about the sheer genius of this invention as I was vaccinating a group of heifers for a disease called brucellosis. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease in cattle and other animals that causes pregnancy loss. It is also a disease of public health concern since it can infect humans through the ingestion of raw milk (that which has not been pasteurized) or contact with fluids during the delivery of a calf. Brucellosis has been eradicated from Pennsylvania for many years, but there are still herds that choose to vaccinate out of an abundance of caution.
The unique feature about vaccinating for brucellosis is the documentation necessary. Since vaccination is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, strict rules are adhered to on animal identification. A vaccinated animal must be identified by an orange metal ear tag in her right ear with a unique number. She must be tattooed in her right ear with a state-issued tattoo and official paperwork must be filled out (four copies) with two copies going to the state.
Vaccinating for brucellosis is usually very tedious, as you might imagine. As I was vaccinating these calves, it was far from tedious because — you guessed it — the calves were restrained in self-locking head locks. First, I went down the line and gave all of them a quick tattoo. Then I went down the line and gave them all a nice, new orange ear tag and last, they got their vaccination. Finally, as the animals were standing there eating, I filled out the paperwork. The whole process took about five minutes. Have I mentioned that I'm a fan of the self-locking head locks?
They are also widely used to restrain cattle for other vaccinations, pregnancy checking, artificial insemination and any other reason that a dairy cow may have to be handled. They have not been widely adopted by beef farmers for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the temperament of many beef cows. They are considerably more ornery than a dairy cow.
I'm a simple man; I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't take much to make me happy. The inventor of the self-locking head lock for cattle has my utmost gratitude for making the lives of veterinarians and herdsmen everywhere a lot easier. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but convenience is a close cousin.