Saturday, July 31, 2010

The 'Next Generation' Artificial Insemination

We are continuing the "next generation" blog posts with showing you a common way a heifer on a dairy gets pregnant. Hopefully you have had the chance to look at the previous posts called "A New Arrival," "At the Calf Nursery" and "The Big Girl Corrals." Here is a brief explanation of how artificial insemination is used to impregnate a heifer or cow.

Most dairies have an age and size requirement for their heifers before they will start allowing them to get pregnant. This is to make sure they are healthy and sufficiently matured enough to carry a calf. The farm vet may assist the dairy farmer in this area by evaluating the animals. Once they pass inspection, they are put in a special pen where a "breeder" passes through, every day, to see if any of the animals are "in heat" (ready to breed). The breeder finds those that are ready and uses a thin pipette to deposit semen from a carefully selected bull into the uterus. Bing, bang, boom, and it's done! The breeders are very experienced in doing this and it causes no harm to the animal whatsoever. Good breeders are gentle and patient with the animals. Watch the video below to see how it's done!

You may ask, why aren't real bulls used to breed the cows? Some dairy farmers do use bulls for breeding and some may use a combination of breeding bulls and artificial insemination. It is a management and health choice. Artificial insemination reduces the risk of venereal diseases being spread in a herd and allows dairymen to match specific cows with desired bulls. Some producers have gotten away from using solely bulls as it presents a danger to people working with them. Again, it is a management choice and each dairy farmer will decide what is best suited for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Late Night Horse Call.....

The farm vet was on call this last weekend and received an emergency call about a horse that was choking. This is something that can happen when the feed gets impacted in the esophagus of a horse. It was about ten o'clock at night, right about when the farm vet was getting ready to go to bed. The farm vet headed out to the call as the owner was not able to bring the horse in. The owner was not only nursing her horse at home but monitoring her child's sleep-over party.

When the farm vet arrived, the horse was indeed choking on it's feed. The lighting was not the best in the area where the horse was being kept, which is not uncommon for making house calls. To "un-choke" the horse he had to place a tube down through the nostril into the esophagus to reach the impaction. This needs to be done by someone with some experience and knowledge of equine anatomy as the tube can go into the lungs instead of toward the stomach. Then it took a series of flushing the impaction with water and siphoning out the impacted feed. This can require quite a bit of energy and time.

With the horse continually coughing to loosen the impaction, it made it difficult for the farm vet to get out of the way of projectile feed coming out! By the end of it, the farm vet was covered in half-digested feed and the horse was back to normal. The woman that owned the horse was very thankful and the farm vet went on his way. When he got home he had to sleepily take a shower before he could get into bed, of course!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This Little Piggy...

As you can see from the posts, the farm vet works primarily with cattle but also does some work with horses in between. This week he had a call for a different species! It was for a pig that had a prolapsed rectum. It most likely happened because the pig had been straining as a result of bowel problems.

We have to admit that the porcine species is not the favorite of the farm vet and he does not work with them on a regular basis. He does have some experience working with the animals from vet school. He spent a couple weeks on a sow farm in England but had never encountered a prolapsed rectum! So, he discussed the situation with some of his colleagues and decided how best to treat it.

This pig was at a high school farm nearby. When the farm vet arrived, there were students and the farm adviser all there to watch and help. Pigs are very good at squealing at a very high pitch for long lengths of time and this pig lived up to that description perfectly. Needless to say, this is not one of the qualities the farm vet enjoys about pigs. After a few minutes of struggling to wrestle the pig into a position where he could work on it, he managed to clean the rectum, get it put back into place and put a stitch in so as to help prevent the problem from occurring again. The job got done and the pig has been reported to be doing well! It was a fun trip to do something out of the ordinary. This is why they call it "veterinary practice," as the farm vet would say.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tail Docking

Reading other blogs and opinions on the internet, it seems there are many people out there that think all dairy farmers dock their cows tails. Let's get straight to the point: NOT ALL DAIRY FARMERS DOCK COWS TAILS. To add to that, we think it is an extremely small percentage that do. Legislation passed two years ago to make it illegal to dock cows tails in California. It is now an illegal practice in this state, with the exception of  special circumstances when the animal injures it's tail and it needs to be removed.

Tail docking was a management practice for some dairies as it was believed to improve the hygiene of the cow and the quality of the milk. The reasoning on this was without the long tails, they wouldn't be able to spread manure and mud around the area of the udder. Now, most dairymen trim the "switch" of the tail. It's the long-haired portion at the end of the tail. None of the actual tail is docked, they're just getting a haircut! This does help decrease the spread of mud and manure by it's tail.

The farm vet performed a recent surgery to amputate a cow's tail as she had broken it. This qualifies as an exception to the law. He thinks another cow may have stepped on it accidentally or she got it caught on a gate somehow. Whatever the case, she will be much more comfortable now. A broken tail is nearly impossible to try to fix on a cow. In this case the skin was broken so the best option was to amputate the tail to decrease pain and risk of infection. Below the farm vet is giving this cow an epidural so she will not feel the surgery.
The tail is scrubbed and disinfected before the surgery begins. You can see where the break is in the red circle.

Here the farm vet is about to make the initial incision.
After the bottom portion is amputated, the farm vet cauterized the area to stop the bleeding and reduce chance of infection. It all went well and the cow will now be more comfortable.

I'd like to end by wishing everyone a wonderful 4th of July weekend! We are so appreciative to live in such a beautiful country with freedom of speech and expression. Thank you to all of the people that have fought to keep it that way! As you know, the Farm Vet is English and so this is an ironic holiday for him to celebrate. :-) Here is a photo of the flags we had flying at our wedding to show our gratitude for our two great nations!

God Bless America (and Great Britain)!