Friday, September 9, 2011

Being a food animal veterinarian, day 2

Day 2 of my Ambulatory rotation. Still raining. I rode with Dr. Cole and one other student.

First we visited a lovely hobby farm, meaning a farm which is not expected to bring in enough revenue to support the owner. These owners bred and showed registered Ayershire cows, and sold their milk as a sideline. They had full time jobs elsewhere. This was a tiny barn, milking around just 20 cows, very clean relative to other barns (I never had to wade through an ankle-deep sea of manure, which is more than I can say for some other farms we visited), and the cows seemed very healthy.

Next we did a herd check at another, larger farm. More rectal palpations. I complained to Dr. Cole that I had no idea what I was doing when I put my arm in there. He walked us through a guide of how we should approach the situation, complete with an actual size model of a cow uterus. Awesome! Here are his instructions, because I know you are desperate to know:

  1. First you feel for the vaginal canal and/or the cervix. These are fairly caudal (the direction of the cow away from the head) so don’t overshoot them.
  2. Follow the cervix cranially (forward). Behold the body of the uterus.
  3. The body of the uterus may have fallen off the floor of the pelvis into the abdomen. If so, grab it and pull it back up onto the pelvis so you can handle it.
  4. Follow the uterus to the right. Ovary! Not necessarily round. It may be more elongated. Often golf ball sized.
  5. Do the same on the left.
I got to where I could find the vaginal canal and/or cervix and the uterine body pretty reliably. I am still bad at finding the actual uterine horns. If I hunt around long enough I can blunder into the right ovary, but it is awkward to reach to the left, so I have yet to find the left ovary. (You palpate with your non-dominant hand so that your dominant hand is free to do things like write down your findings. So I palpate with my left hand. Since you face towards the cow while you’re palpating, reaching to the right is easy and reaching to the left is hard.)

Next stop was another farm for a herd check, 2 rabies vaccines, and 2 health certificates for some calves that were being taken to the fair. We’ve actually done a fair number of health certificates this week. Autumn is town and county fair season, so the kids are all taking their cows out to show them. At this farm I got to see one cow being prepped for the trip by being buzzed down smooth with some clippers.

The last farm was a herd check, 3 calves to dehorn, and 3 lame cows to check on. We tied each lame cow to a post by the head, then lifted the problem foot by means of a complicated rope pulley system that I supposedly learned in my Clinical Skills class but which I certainly could not duplicate on my own. (“Throw a half-hitch here... That’s not a half hitch! Well, do you at least remember how to do a quick release knot?”) The cows would then kick and freak out, so someone had to tail jack them to keep them distracted. Tail jacking means holding the cow’s tail straight up. To do this you have to stand very close to the cow and lean into the tail. She won’t kick you once you’re close, because they kick out to the side, not back. But getting close can be tricky. I learned: get in and tail jack her before they lift her leg and she starts hopping around and kicking. That works much better. (Trim feet down so you can see the problem. Declare the problem to be hairy heel warts. Yes, that’s an actual disease, caused by a species of bacteria. Apply powder antibiotic and bandage the foot. Done.)


Day 2 done. Still cold. Still wet. Starting to feel more like I know what I’m doing.

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