So this afternoon I was invited out by a doctor to join in on some distance anaesthesia, in other words darting some animals. Now with my goal of working with wildlife this was an opportunity I just could not pass up and so jumped straight into it. Today the doctor had been asked to assist with the transport of some bulls, and two cows who were apparently too dangerous to move without sedation.
Now this was also a new one for me, as bull’s are no longer the most common animal to come across in the UK with the advent of artificial insemination. They generally have a bad reputation and are classed as dangerous animals to keep on a farm with high insurance costs etc. I was a little unsure when the doctor just went walking across the field like it was a stroll in the park, just with 4 bulls in it. Now I know that it is a common misconception that bulls go for the colour red, however this is not true and instead it is the movement that attracts the attention of the bull. Praying this was true I set off across the field after the doctor to dart the first bull.
Something I absolutely love about studying here in Slovakia is how in order to keep things affordable doctors improvise otherwise expensive items. Today we used a blow pipe with darts, now the blow pipe itself with a complete kit cost just 50 euros, however it comes with limited darts so the doctor actually made his own darts to be used with it as well.
So probably the most important part of distance anaesthesia is the weight of the dart, so to reduce the weight of the dart its important to try to use really high concentration drugs. Today we used a specially imported drug version that is used in zoo’s, with xylazine at 100mg/ml instead of the normal 20mg/ml which is 5 times more powerful for the same amount (and same weight). The sedation worked really well as did the homemade darts, something I’ve learnt today that I can apply anywhere with a scalpel blade and a little glue.
When sedating cows and bulls it is also important that they either are in sternal recumbancy or on their right side to protect the rumen which lays on the left side of the body.
Today we worked with a team of 10 men to move the 400kg+ animals once they were sedated, and it all went without a hitch… Well until the last one when the first two were waking up and trying to escape. I got taught how to tie the legs in rodeo style which was pretty cool and something that I’ve tucked away for if I ever need it in future.
This week in animal hygiene we started with our double lecture:double practical system as next week instead of being in the classroom we are out visiting a cow and sheep farm. So we previously defined animal hygiene and now today we spent the lecture looking at the specific requirements of cattle in the different life stages. When dealing with production animals one of the best management strategies is grouping together animals with the same nutritional and environmental needs. With cattle these are split into
Dairy Cows (Female lactating cows)
Calves (Until 6 months of age)
Heifers (Females aged 7 months – first calving
Bulls (From 7 months of age)
Theses categories are further broken down by age and weight, and within this by breed and health status. Generally a single group of animals should not exceed 20 animals, and during the calf stage animals may only be individually penned up until 8 weeks of age (excluding those receiving veterinary treatment). Some of the reasoning behind this includes the memory of the cow to recognise other members of the group, promoting natural behaviour whilst trying to provide for the physical and mental needs of the animal.
As I said on Tuesday, I am going split the diary entry for Tuesday where I have tonnes to write about over both Tuesday and today which is a little quieter. So Tuesday’s physiology practical was on the reproductive physiology of animals and we did a few tests looking at the ovulation and breeding of animals, before then heading down to the clinic to look at induction and synchronisation of ovulation in sheep practice.
The most basic clinical exam when looking at reproduction in animals is taking a vaginal smear, basically a swab is inserted into the vagina to collect a sample of the skin cells. These cells alter depending on the levels of different hormones within the blood allowing detection of ovulation and fertility within the animal. We did vaginal smears from a dog and from rats which was interesting because of how the same techniques can be applied across species regardless of size.
We then went down to look at induction of ovulation in some sheep, this is extremely important within the sheep industry to ensure that animals will lamb at the same time and so allow for this to be planned and managed properly. It’s especially useful for production of Christmas Lamb or Easter Lamb for holiday occasions. This can be done either naturally by introducing a infertile ram into the flock, or artificially using hormones to induce the estrus. The technique we learnt was inserting a vaginal sponge (kinda like a tampon) soaked with hormones to induce estrus, this sponge is then left in place for 14 days before then being removed and a ram introduced for mating.