Sometimes Cows Get Sick

Today we had to make a phone call to our veterinarian.  One of our cows that recently had a baby isn’t eating well, looks a little off and we suspect she has a displaced abomasum or a DA.  A displaced abomasum is basically a twisted stomach.  Cows have four stomach compartments, one of them being the abomasum.  When a cow is under stress and not eating well, her stomach can sometimes twist.  It is not uncommon among new mothers.

Our patient

As you could imagine, a cow is under quite a bit of stress after giving birth.  While there are many factors that can result into a DA, nutrition and transition are the primary factors.  Cows are VERY picky eaters and if we don’t feed them a precise diet they can sometimes get an upset stomach or worse, a DA.  A college professor once told me, “A cow will eat anything and produce well as long as it is exactly what she ate yesterday.” You can see the humor in this, as it is almost impossible to make a recipe exactly the same every time!  We work hard to feed them the best diet possible and help them transition into motherhood with ease, but sometimes cows get sick.

When we suspect a DA, we call our veterinarian and he comes to our farm as soon as possible to examine the cow.  Today we were right, the vet has confirmed a DA.  He does so by using a stethoscope to listen to the cow’s stomach.  So, the old gal has a DA and now we must begin surgery to untwist the stomach.   I will try to keep the pictures and details minimal for those with weak stomachs.

The first step is to sedate and numb the cow so she doesn’t feel anything.  The vet gives her just enough so that she can’t feel anything near the incision site, but is still able to remain standing.  The surgery cannot take place if the cow lies down.

Sedating the cow via vein in the tail

Sedating the cow via vein in the tail

Next, he will clip the hair and disinfect around the incision site.  It is important to keep everything clean and sterile to avoid infection.

Sterilizing the incision site

Sterilizing the incision site

The vet will then make the incision so he can reach the cow’s abomasum and manually untwist it.  After the stomach is untwisted and back to its normal position, the vet will stitch the cow up.

All stitched up!

All stitched up!

It is a pretty simple and quick procedure and the cow should be back to normal in no time.  We will keep the cow on antibiotics for a few days and continue to examine her daily.  Since the cow will be on antibiotics, we will put two pink leg bands on her rear legs.

Excuse her dusty hooves

Excuse her dusty hooves

This identifies to everyone on the farm that this cow has antibiotics in her system and that she CANNOT be milked with the rest of the herd.  Her milk must be separated and dumped.  Every tank of milk that leaves our farm is tested for antibiotics when it reaches the creamery. If a tank tests positive, the entire load of milk will be dumped down the drain.  That is A LOT of money.  We have never had anyone forget to separate a cow treated with antibiotics, because, let’s face it, who wants to be that guy?!

Any who, we will continue to observe and care for our patient.  I will try to keep you updated on her status.  I have no doubt that she is already feeling better and will be eating like pig in no time!


3 thoughts on “Sometimes Cows Get Sick

  1. Pingback: Let’s Take the Fear Out of Food | Modern-day Farm Chick

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