Removing Porcupine Quills from a Cow

By on Jul 19, 2017 in Carole's Corner |

Share On GoogleShare On FacebookShare On Twitter

The quills were firmly stuck in Zeena’s face as we loaded her into the stock trailer for the trip home. Zeena, a cow, was in one of our remote Barnstead pastures when she was attacked by a porcupine. We had to get her home where we had the tools to remove the over 30 quills plastered on her face.

How did she get all those quills? Would a porcupine attack a cow? Not likely. More likely is that Zeena, fascinated by a waddling porcupine, got too close to the beast and it whacked her with its tail. Cattle are curious creatures. Lie flat on the ground in a pasture with cows and within minutes they will be standing around sniffing your head and feet. They won’t hurt you or step on you, they’ll just sniff and wonder what this thing on the ground is. Not to fear, they won’t step on you, they’ll just sniff. That’s the thing, most livestock will go out of their way NOT to step on a person. A friend of mine fell down while loading domestic deer into a stock trailer. She was lying directly in the path of 15 escaping deer but not one hoof stepped on her. The deer leaped and scrambled to avoid stepping on the human lying in their path.

Removing Quills

Zeena, the cow, is secure in the squeeze chute while we remove quills from her face. Photo by Miles Smith Farm

Cattle are the same but even though Zeena wouldn’t step on the porcupine she encountered, she got close enough to get a face full of quills. Once we got her back to our farm, Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, we put her in the “squeeze chute” which would hold her securely while we plucked the quills from her face. The squeeze chute does just that, it squeezes. It gently holds the animal to keep her from thrashing and a head lock holds her head steady so we could remove the quills. If you’ve ever had a dog (cats seem to be too smart for this) with quills in her face you know the routine. Keep the animal steady and quiet while removing the quills. It’s got to be painful for the critter but has to be done.

Zeena’s face is quill free, for now. Hopefully, she learned her lesson and won’t repeat, but who knows. I’ve met dogs who repeatedly collect quills. I bet you know of some too. Maybe next time Zeena will encounter a skunk which might be unpleasant but won’t be as painful.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, NH, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at