Petting Calves

· Clinic Duties, Cows, Diseases, Ranch

How wonderful. My application is complete and I have a shadowing position with Dr. C, a large animal vet with a mixed animal practice. Being largely a mobile vet, experience is sparse and spontaneous based on my availability and the seasonal demand. So far the fall in the Yellowstone Park are all brucellosis testing, vaccinating and pregnancy checking. While I had very little to do to help Dr. C was quite eager to give out information.

Brucellosis is no longer a disease of great concern throughout the US with the exception of the greater Yellowstone area where there is a mandated quarantined zone. Ranchers in Yellowstone must have a veterinarian check their livestock yearly. Brucellosis is known as a food hazard to humans, it results in long term illness and abortions if consuming raw meat or untreated milk.

Brucellosis used to be wide spread in the industry but was widely eradicated through vaccination. However before this was accomplished wild bison came under the protection of the US government as endangered species. The bison were raised along with cattle and contracted brucellosis. After stabilizing the population they were released into Yellowstone before they were treated. This has also lead to the infection of other wild ungulates such as elk and deer. These wild animals act as reservoirs preserving the disease and reintroducing it to the local livestock.

Pregnancy checking is a common procedure where a hand is inserted deep into the rectum. If the cow is in early gestation you will fell the bottom of the rectum wall for hard buttons known as caruncles (bits of tissue that act as placental tissue passing nutrients from the mother to the fetus.) if the cow is in late mid to late gestation you can feel the actual calf’s hooves or head depending on its position.

Dr. C is a fantastic instructor. Day two of my shadowing he turned to me with his hand still in a cow and said with all seriousness “wanna stick your hand up a cow’s butt?” to which I had the very obvious answer of duh! For the cattle industry the ideal birthdate of calves is March 1st which is silly but it is what it is, so in October the cow is in that mid to late gestation. While covering my arm in fecal matter I was essentially petting little calves before anyone even got to see them.

I am looking forward to continuing my work with Dr. C.