Tail blood (Day -276)

Cow reproductive management

Blood collection is one of the basic skills of medicine as blood can tell you so much about a patient. Something I’ve very little experience with however is cow medicine – and in cows you normally take blood from the tail. This is because the cow is massive, generally is a safe place from being kicked, and usually is quick when moving through a row of cows.

Theory going into practice though my first calf with this method I failed my first two attempts on the tail so decided to go for the jugular instead which was a lot easier for me to get. Getting a jugular vein in an adult cow however is a big effort as the cow needs to be properly restrained and often into a crush to do it safely.

So disaster for me – even though I had got the blood needed for testing from the jugular – it was still a really harsh personal insult that I had failed from the tail. The theory with collecting blood from the tail is that you insert the needle directly in the center of the underside of the tail until you hit bone. Pull back slightly and then the blood will flow. So simple yet I had failed.

There was still time though with maybe another 50 older calves to go. These were harder to restrain, a lot more work, and a lot bigger. Being bigger also meant that these calves had larger tail veins, and so every cow going forward I had no problem collecting my blood from the tail vein.

The second thing with cows that is important when it comes to cow medicine is managing the herd behaviour. For cows will run away from you, and look for a path to escape, and cows will fall especially if in a herd. And then the others in a panic will walk over the fallen ones to escape. So what was a herd of unvaccinated cows will become a herd of broken, beaten, unvaccinated cows.

We wrestled our way through these 50 calves using brute force and the fence of the pen to restrain them. With the last calf we were happy to be done, and the calves happy to see us go.

Crop Feeding Chickens, Taking Blood, Digestion, and the Joints…. (Day 87)

Chicken dissection tools and materials

Well today I got a suprise when I walked into Physiology and was told we were going to feed a cock starch solution and then take blood from it before we euthanised it and inspected the digestive tract.

Now the starch solution was to look at the different areas of absorbtion within the avian digestive tract which is important in our knowledge of animal nutrition. As with any practical in vet school anywhere it is important that animals are treated with respect and do not suffer unnecesarily. This is something that is at the front of my mind at all times as I am here to learn how to relieve suffering and each animal that helps me on this path will be remembered forever.

Now avian species (birds) have a different digestive anatomy to mammals, it starts with something called a crop. A crop is like a storage pouch at the end of the esophageus before the stomach (called a gizzard in birds) allowing it to store food for later, and also soften food before feeding it to their young. Within veterinary medicine birds are often fed by crop feeding, which is where a tube is passed down the esophageus into the crop (it is painless to the animal!!!) for liquid food to be directly given to birds too weak to feed themselves. This is the method that was used today to allow the starch solution to be inserted into the digestive system.

Crop feeding chicken a food solutionThe solution was given 20 minutes to pass through the digestive tract, during this time we took blood samples from the chicken to analyse for white blood cells. I was the first person to do this, and with my previous disasters was a little nervous. I attempted to collect blood from the metatarsal vein which is located on the foot of the chicken and shows as a really thin darker line. With this I was determined to get it first time! Following aseptic techniques I cleaned the area with antiseptic, before then inserting the needle at 45 degrees and with the point towards the skin. I was amazed when I immediately got the needle into the vein and was collecting blood for my sample. This really has been one of my highlights as I finally managed to collect blood first time!!!

After the 20 minutes required for the solution to pass through the entire digestive tract were up the chicken was then humanely slaughtered for dissection. Something at the forefront of our minds is animal welfare and we requested to observe this for ourselves and were allowed to watch. Whilst happy it was humanely done, one of the observations was it really is a humbling when considering how few people can relate the pack of meat obtained in a supermarket to having been a living breathing animal.

Chicken dissection tools and materialsSomehow I ended up being the person that dissected the digestive tract from the chicken, one of the things I was most suprised about was how much of the body cavity was actually given to digestion in relation to the size of the bird. Previously I had watched the dissection of a quail on my previous degree and remember the tract being a lot smaller and less defined then it was in this chicken.

The afternoon then was our anatomy practical with a different lecturer than usual, todays test was different as instead of being questioned using a cadaver we were asked to describe a area from memory. I did pass however after getting out realised that being put on the spot I had forgotten some things from my description which I knew but totally got distracted from. I think I am going change my revision stragety and get someone to question me each week before the exam from memory as its valuable being able to picture the anatomical structures in the mind.

During the practical we looked at the different ligaments of all the joints of the body, something I found really interesting was being able to see and touch an intervertebral disc as its something I had heard so much about. Something else that got me was just how difficult it actually is to get the cruciate ligaments, this has given me a much greater respect for the vets out there that do CCL repairs!

As the course gets more interesting something I’d like to do is be able to make it so people that want to can see the more graphic photo’s whilst keeping the main posts friendly for everyone. Anyways, until next time 🙂