Livestock Collectibles

Early livestock devices offered a farmer an ounce of protection – and Carl Friesch has quite the collection

| December 2009

When he sets up his display at a show, Carl Friesch can be pretty confident that it’ll be one of a kind.

“I collect the kind of things that nobody else brings,” says the Sullivan, Wis., man.

Slick influence

A display of hog oilers was the inspiration for Carl’s collection. “I saw a display of oilers about 25 years ago,” he recalls, “and I was just fascinated. I bought my first oiler about 10 years ago, and then it all started.” Now he hauls as many as 45 hog oilers to a show. “That’s 3,000 pounds, and that’s enough,” he admits. Enough hog oilers, maybe. He also collects other hog items: troughs, ringers, snouters, holders, ear notchers and hog feed bags. “I’m always looking for any hog-related item,” he says.

Bull blinder

The bull blinder was used to defuse potentially volatile temperaments.

“When a bull’s head is down, that’s when he does damage,” Carl explains. “With a blinder on, the bull can only see when his head is upright. It was protection for the farmer, and it must have worked, because they kept making them up to the 1960s.”


With spring-activated grips applied to the animal’s nose, leaders performed the same function as a bull staff but at closer proximity.

“They’d use the leader to hold the animal’s head up when they were giving them shots, medication or notching ears,” Carl explains. “If a bull or cow didn’t have a ring in its nose, the farmer had to use something to control it.”

Bull staff

Bull staffs were designed in the early 1900s as a means of animal control. A 4-foot handle ended in a spring clasp that was used to hook the ring in a bull’s nose. The ring was the key: A bull could be rendered nearly docile with an experienced twist of a nose ring.

“They’d use a staff to control the bull when they were branding or things like that,” Carl says. “Then they could lead them around at a reasonable distance.” Carl’s collection includes a variety of staffs, each with unique design features. Some were controlled by springs; some used rope or light chain to deliver a tighter grip.

Calf weaner

Calf weaners taught by experience. “Some of them are awful pointy,” Carl notes, “but they were designed to keep the calf away from the cow.” Some weaners were attached to the calf’s nose; others were worn halter-style.

Manufactured weaners were widely available, but many farmers were reluctant to part with a nickel for such a thing and made their own. “Some of them are quite crude,” Carl says.

Harvest collectibles

Carl also collects corn items (a handsome display mounted on weathered barn boards included a corn knife, thumbstall and husking pegs) and slip scrapers, slosh buckets and slushers.

Each season, he tries to put together a new display to take on the road. “That’s how you find more things,” he says, “by showing your collection.” Still, if Carl never found another thing, he’d be satisfied. “I’m always thankful that I’ve got what I’ve got,” he says. FC

For more information: Carl Friesch, W544 Hwy. 18, Sullivan, WI 53178.