Fridays is either a day of lectures, or more often a morning spent on the farm working with the ruminant vets on cow health. Since the start of the semester this has included foot trimming, a digit amputation, a downed cow, and this week reproductive management.
Being a dairy unit to ensure constant production of milk the cows are managed so that there are always fresh calvers. This provides us with the opportunity to practice routine reproductive management work – checking cows post parturition is important to ensure their health.
Dealing with cows after calving it starts with a general clinical exam, and then the focus switches to the reproductive organs. This mainly composes the uterus, and the ovaries. The examination of these organs includes a visual examination of the external openings and then an internal examination rectally or via the vagina.
Though I have previously examined the vagina using a speculum – in cows this can be also be completed using palpation. Today I did my first internal exam of the uterus – you see in a cow that has just given birth it is possible to insert your arm through the vagina and into the uterus. This allows you to feel for any damage caused by the birth process, and to examine the uterus content – if this is contaminated or infected. What surprised me most as I’ve seen the cervix normally is just how wide it opens – even with my fingers spread I could not touch both sides of the opening at the same time. To confirm that it was actually the cervix I followed the ring of more muscular tissue all the way around.
It also gave me a new appreciation of just how difficult fetotomy could be. Having to reach in far enough to get the saw wires in place will be a challenge just in terms of the length of the uterus from the opening.
During this practical we examined 10 cows, and being able to see the different types of discharge – and in one case the removal of mummified fetus from within the uterus was very interesting. This is one of the things I like about being here – being able to see so much and get this practical experience.
I really love what I do, especially when you start to see the personalities of the different cows…