Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A New Arrival.....

For the past few weeks after herd checks, the farm vet has been trying to find time to catch the miracle of a calf being born. This week happened to be that week! This video will kick off our first series: 'The Next Generation'. We will try to show you the stages of life of a dairy heifer as she grows into a mature cow on the dairy and has her own baby.

Every dairy farm has a "closeup" and "maternity" pen. As the names suggest, the closeup pen consists of cows and heifers who are typically within a few weeks of their due date. Most dairies have at least one individual who is dedicated to keep a close eye on these pens. On this dairy his name is Roberto. This is a job that requires a lot of training, skill, patience and care. When he identifies a cow which will soon begin labor, he moves her into the maternity pen so he can monitor her. The maternity pen is kept as clean and comfortable as possible with the tools necessary to assist with the birthing process. If he has any problems he can call the farm vet 24/7 for assistance.

As shown in the video, once the baby has entered the birth canal and strong abdominal contractions have started, the cow should give birth within 3-4 hours. In this situation, after talking to Roberto the farm vet realized this heifer had been pushing for three hours so they decided to examine her. The baby was presenting itself normally but the heifer was struggling to deliver her calf alone. The decision was made to assist with the delivery.

Chains were attached to the babies legs to aid in delivery. Chains are commonly used in this manner as the babies legs are very slippery. Properly applied and used, they cause no harm to the baby or mother whatsoever. After delivery the calf was placed on straw bedding and its umbilicus dipped in iodine to stop any infection. The mom was left to lick her baby clean and dry. The baby will be given two quarts of colostrum (the first milk from the mother, full of energy and antibodies) within six hours of birth. This is extremely important for the calf to grow to be strong and healthy.

This is truly a joyous moment marking the start of new life which is vital to the future of the dairy. It is the start of an exciting life for the new born heifer. She will encounter good and bad times just like me and you! Hopefully, in a few years she will join the herd as an adult.

Next we will follow up at the calf ranch (calf nursery) as the journey continues!

Friday, March 19, 2010

One Health: Humans and Animals

As the wife of the farm vet I work very closely with him in animal agriculture. This post is going to be about my week spent with many large animal veterinarians and animal scientists from across the nation. I attended a great conference in which the underlying theme was, "One World, One Health." This meaning, one health between animals, humans and the environment. A very good point was made to show that the veterinarian's oath summarizes this theme:

"Veterinarian's Oath: Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence."

Now think about it.....there is a direct link between the health of animals and humans, especially animals in agriculture. Even though you may not see or live near areas with animal agriculture you are affected by the health and safety of it if you consume any animal products. Veterinarians and animals scientists are constantly working to improve knowledge of diseases that affect animals and humans. It is extremely important that we continue to improve our science and knowledge for disease control and best animal care. I want to thank our veterinarians that put so much time and effort into carrying out their oath!

Unfortunately, the funding at the federal level is not extremely abundant for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research. Here is a graph showing the funding for different government agencies to conduct research and development in the last thirty years. As you can see, the funding available to USDA has not changed much. I hope our government leaders will start to realize the importance of having funding available for research in agriculture as it directly relates to human and environmental health.

I also tagged along on an animal well-being evaluation on a dairy. This is going to be an evaluation that more and more dairy producers are doing in California. Here are a few pictures of the evaluation. I, personally, was impressed with the cleanliness of the cows and the facility. The evaluator, whom in this case was an outside veterinarian, assessed the health and welfare of the animals and provided feedback to the producer on what looked good and areas that could use some improvement. I commend these producers that will take an extra step to have a set of "new eyes" come out to look at their overall management.

Above left, the vet and the owner.
Above right, these girls had the munchies!
Left, someone getting a little sun on this beautiful CA day!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday Afternoon "Happy Hour!"

This last Saturday afternoon, about 5pm, a call came in for a cow that was having trouble giving birth to her calf. This cow is from a ranch that supplies beef to consumers. The owner put her in a trailer to bring her to an area that was well lit and clean for the farm vet to check her and do a cesarean section. Most cows are able to give birth naturally without a c-section but in this case the baby was upside down and very large. It was too difficult for her to do unaided.
It was a family affair, with the grandpa, husband and wife, children and even the dog there to watch! The baby calf came out alive and healthy at a whopping 150 lbs! It was a beautiful s
ight and well worth the time and money spent by the owner. The cow and calf are both doing well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hello and Welcome!

We are new to the world of blogging so to kick off our first post we would like to say 'thanks' for visiting our blog. To start, here's what was an average day in the life of a farm vet.....
  • He began his early morning with a dairy cow "herd check." This is an important part of the dairy farm's management as the dairyman and the veterinarian can work together to improve the health and well-being of the herd.
  • Next he went to what is called a calf ranch (like a calf nursery). He walked around with the manager examining the overall health of the calves.
  • Then he was off to another calf-raising ranch to check on some heifers that had been tested for tuberculosis. They were not tested because they have been exposed to the disease but because these heifers are going out of the state and, for disease precautions, each state has requirements for tuberculosis testing prior to any new animals entering. Good news is that none of them are positive!
  • He finished his day with touring a new goat dairy. This was the highlight of his day and he couldn't stop talking about how clean and beautiful the new goat dairy is!
Most days are usually wrapped up with him checking in at the clinic to check on appointments and do some paperwork. The schedule makes for long days but the variety of the work makes them go by extremely fast! There will be good days and bad days and we look forward to sharing more and more of those with you!