January 4-11, 2008

Miner reunion!

I came up to Vermont and stayed with Wanda so I could ride along with Dr. Henderson and the others at Northwest Vets. I watched a LOT of pregnancy checks and palpations. I think I will make it my goal in life to be as good at palpating as Dr. Henderson is. It’s all the more impressive when you think about the fact that a cow’s ovaries are only the size of pecans, and first you have to find them, and then you’re feeling them through layers of gloves and intestine. I also saw a lot of DA surgeries, 7 LDAs and 1 RDA. I helped prep for all of them, by clipping and scrubbing the surgical site. We dehorned quite a few calves, too, and I got to give the injection of lidocaine and Rompun that numbs the horns and sedates the calves. But that was just the boring stuff!

There was a farm that had almost 100 calves come down with a bad respiratory infections, so we did tracheal washes to try to figure out what was causing it. To do a trach wash, you have to insert a needle through the wall of the trachea, then thread a catheter through that needle. Twenty or thirty mLs of sterile saline are injected through the trachea, and then you try to recover as much as you can so it can be cultured. What I learned from that was that I hope I never need one done to me.

One of the most interesting cases was a post-mortem exam. We found huge blood clots, which indicated the cow died from acidosis or rumenitis, but I’m not sure how a stomach problem could cause blood clots. Maybe it’s that ulcers developed and then perforated.

One of the farms we went to had cows with horns—that was scary! I stayed entirely out of the way until the cow we needed to work on was tied up. She turned out to have pneumonia and a uterine infection. That same day, at a different farm, we did a DA on a cow with a terrible uterine infection. Dr. Henderson drained at least a gallon of pus from her uterus.

The most fun cases were ones I could help with. I placed 2 IVs that week, which I supposed might get boring eventually, but right now, I still think it’s cool. Whoever came up with the idea that you could stick a needle through a creature’s skin and find its blood vessels and let blood out? Placing IVs also reminds me of one of the perks large animal medicine has over small animal and human medicine: huge veins.

My favorite part of the whole week was visiting Miner and seeing Anna and Cricket.

It was terrific to see everyone again! Claire and Lindsey were there, too, and we called Blake and he told us about getting into vet school, which is awesome. The coolest part was the Cricket really seemed like she remembered me. Later in the week, I went to a conference with Anna in Burlington. It was the Poulin Grain Dairy Producers Conference on Feeding and Forages in the New World. Most of it was over my head, but some of the parts that dealt with chemistry I understood.

All in all, it was a great week and I was so glad I got to visit Miner again. I’m hoping to make a trip up this summer, maybe for the fair. Doing my thesis project on mastitis this year has given me lots of tastes of dairy farming, so that has been nice. I have to reiterate what I said in my last post: farming agrees with me. This spring, I have really felt that strongly. What I’m loving about it now, with the changing seasons, is how it is tied inextricably to nature. No matter how technological agriculture gets in the next decades, crops will still have to planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, and I like that.