Arms and cows…

Cow rectal exam

Sticking your arm into a cows rectum is pretty easy, and I am entirely convinced pretty much anyone can do it. However actually making it mean something, and getting any useful information from it is something else.

For once you are inside you feel very warm, and everything just feels soft and squidgy…  Apart from your arm that is which is being squeezed as tight as the cow can manage to squeeze. And you are meant to turn this into something useful.

Now this was my first time doing a rectal exam on a cow so I was not sure how much it would tell me, even though I know the theory. I knew what should be there, and where it should be, however that does not mean that things will be where they are supposed to be – or for that matter even there at all. Plus depending on the age of the animal things may move as tissues stretch.

It’s important to be able to find the basics, so that once you have this you can then use it to look for things that are not normal or meant to be there. Now I managed to find the cervix at the bottom of the uterus, and from this managed to follow the horns which then lead me to the ovaries.

Being able to find the ovary allows you to tell where in the cycle the cow is, and more importantly when doing artificial insemination which horn of the uterus to place the semen. Whilst I was able to find what I needed, it was slow and so I need a lot more practice to get to a stage where I can say I have the confidence to find everything I need everytime.

Starting Clinical Diagnostics, and a little nutrition… (Day 372)

Vet School Clinical Diagnostics

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pets Bureau

Well second day of my second year, yesterday though long absolutely flew by, I’m also spending some time with one of the doctors this week doing some reproductive practice. Basically with animals it is now more common to use artificial insemination to breed selectively for optimal results, part of this looking for ovulation when the ovary releases the follicle(egg)  into the uterus (womb). This means that at the moment I am basically with the doctor every 7 hours to check the status of the ovary – this is a pretty big (and interesting) topic so I will write more about it separately soon!

Anyways back to my official programme… Today I started the Clinical Diagnostics module which is kind of interesting as these are the essential skills of being a vet, and one of the topics where I’ve not found a single textbook covering it all. I’ve done a little bit in the past, and have gained a lot more skills here during my study and practice in the summer as well so today kind of was a recap of stuff I already knew, however I was looking forward to the practice session which was later this evening.

Between this though I had a large gap before my Pharmacy and Therapeutics which I used to check the horse ovaries again. Making it into Pharmacy 7 Therapeutics now I realise that though it is essential to understand some stuff, a lot of it is specific to Slovakia, and hence once I graduate will not be of use to me. However the interesting part of it is that available drugs are controlled on a country basis with each country having an official pharmacopoeia which is a big manual of drugs. Basically drugs are even further restricted within the UK with something known as the cascade which is managed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. This means that every option has to be exhausted before a drug that is not approved for the species can be used (including for the use of drugs developed for humans). It really is something I will be having to read up myself before coming back to the UK to practice.

Now following this we started Nutrition, as I said yesterday we are looking at applied nutrition so how to calculate what and how much to feed to specific animals. We’ve started with dairy cows (which I luckily happen to know a little bit about) where the goal with nutrition is to get the best milk production possible. If you remember last year I studied Milk Hygiene where milk quality is based on the amount of milk fat and protein content within the milk. In addition to the owner the quantity of milk is also important. Now nothing appears from nowhere so these are both affected by what the cow eats so we need to ensure that the protein in the milk is replaced in the cow through the protein in the feed (otherwise we will get a very malnourished cow pretty quickly).

To start this process we need to determine how much protein, energy and nutrients (milk has a lot of calcium and phosphate) that the cow actually needs to produce the milk whilst maintaining its body condition. This is easier than it sounds as we have very good guidelines produced by the National Research Council which are compiled from large research surveys. So once we have this we then have to look at the types of feed, balancing this however is a different matter and definitely something I will also cover separately later as well.

This evening my last practice starting at 5:25 and finishing at 7pm was clinical diagnostics, this was interesting as walking into the room we were greeted by two cows, a sheep, a goat, and two dogs. The practical today was working with the animals, how to restrain them for exam and then percussion and auscultation. These are something that I will try and cover later as well as I am pretty much over my word count today with my rambling!

Vet School Clinical Diagnostics

Selective Breeding and what it takes to be an AI Sire… (Day 88)

UVM Kosice Campus Snowy and Deserted

The only lecture I had today was Genetics this afternoon as Milk Hygiene is finished pending the exam and there was no power on campus this morning because they were doing work on the mains. Campus today was looking very nice yet was practically deserted when I arrived for the lecture…

UVM Kosice Campus Snowy and DesertedTodays lecture was on health and disease according to genetics, starting with looking at the Simple and Multifactorial causes of genetic diseases before then moving onto Health Hereditary Care (HHC).

To understand why HHC is important we need to consider how genetics are managed now. Previously where dairy farms each had their own bull (which is a dangerous animal to keep and work with!) many farms now use artificial insemination. Artificial Insemination (AI) is safer, faster and also gives the benefit of widening the gene pool as semen can be collected the other side of the world to be used if necessary. The question is how do you know that the animal that donated this semen doesn’t carry a genetic disease? This is where HHC comes in, and most countries have very strict legislation here, this can be based on four basic principles:

  • Phenotypic (physical) expression of the disease
  • Pedegree Analysis
  • Health Status of the Progeny (children)
  • Cytogenetic and DNA tests

The downside to genetics is that it is just not the sire that needs to be tested, but for the offspring as well for a minimum of at least two generations (some diseases skip a generation).

Within the Czech Republic and Slovakia the HHC testing is based upon the health status of the progeny, this means that breeding of a test group of animals (this is usually 1000 animals) is required. These then need to be grown on to sexual maturity and a second group inseminated to test for diseases that skip a generation This not only takes time (in cows gestation is around 9 months, plus 2 years for sexual maturity) so this process takes around 4 years before the collected semen can be used in production animals.

During this testing the fertility of the semen is checked, offspring for genetic diseases and fertility, and the pregnancy and delivery of the calves are monitored. The semen is then graded on a scale of C – A depending on the outcome of this.

  • C – Is pretty bad with lots of problems in pregnancy and with diseases in the calves. The sire is not used for AI and the offspring are sent to slaughter
  • B – The sire is acceptable to be used as a father for non-breeding stock only
  • A – The sire is breeding standard, and progeny is suitable for further development of the breeding line

One of the most important things that I have taken away from this is the great responsibility that vets have. When looking at this testing it is important to consider the entire population and not just a single animal, and the wording used when reporting is also crucial. Neglecting the word “suspected” when dealing with a uncomfirmed animal with a genetic disease can send a thousand animals to slaughter unnecessarily.

With that week 12 has ended, I have one more week of lessons remaining, and just weeks left to find the tuition that I need to raise to continue in vet school. Please if you can help, whether it is just £1 of more, please do! You can make a one off donation on the right of the page or set up a monthly donation securely by paypal. If you want to do a bank transfer or direct debit please contact me for banking details.