Mike Bevan BVSc MRCVS, Director, Lanes Vets, Garstang, Lancashire
“I’ve always been interested in endoscopy and I wanted to be able to offer it to our clients.”
Endoscopy was something that had interested Garstang-based vet Mike Bevan for some time. “I knew that using the procedure for some operations required on large animals – particularly dairy cows – was not only less invasive for the animal but also offered quicker recovery rates with a much lower risk of infection.
“Antibiotics would usually be given routinely when we operate on a cow, but not so with endoscopy. And I really felt that, particularly when correcting conditions like left-displaced abomasum, this was the best option for the cow and the client’s pocket. I wanted to be able to offer it to our clients,” he says.
“I also thought it would be handy for exploratory work – when we’re not sure the problem is. It’s a much better alternative than taking an educated guess or opening up the cow to take a closer look.”
A colleague suggested that Mike contacted Somerset-based vet and qualified trainer in endoscopy Sotirios Karvountzis. “He suggested that he should come to us – for a week. And not only could he teach all of us the technique – and while we were out on our rounds – but he’d also fill in as a locum for us. That was an attractive proposition.
“I thought it represented good value for money. There were no costs for our travel or accommodation and no hassle of finding cover while we were away from the practice. The training came to us and we could incorporate it into a typical working week.”
Mike’s practice, which has seven large animal vets, has around 100 dairy farmer clients. The number of left displaced abomasum (LDA) cases varies according to the time of year. But during spring three or four cases a week is typical. So he knew that there’d be the opportunity to try out the technique on farm while Sotirios was training him and the other large animal vets at the practice.
“I think it’s the best way to learn. A practical on-farm, hands-on approach is so much better than learning something like this in a classroom situation. We did spend time looking at the theory behind the technique – that’s important, of course. And we had time to get familiar with the equipment.
“But then we were in at the deep end, so to speak. Sotirios actually had us doing the technique on farm and correcting LDAs.”
Mike says that correcting LDAs with endoscopy is also cost effective compared to a major invasive operation. “The procedure itself is more expensive, but it’s the aftercare and recovery rate where cost savings are made. No antibiotics have to be prescribed and, because we just make two small incisions, the cow is up and back with the rest of the herd within a day or two. So the labour requirement is considerably less.”
Mike says that the farmers themselves also like the kits for other reasons: “They’re fascinated by the new technology and they’re also delighted that the vet can get on and correct an LDA without additional assistance. It’s a one-man job.
“One alternative, the ‘rolling and toggling’ technique, is hard work and takes at least three people – and can cause considerable distress to the cow. And the other ‘open’ surgery option is very invasive. This is a relatively quick and stress-free procedure for the cow – and it’s much less invasive.”
Mike says he bought the endoscopy equipment immediately after the course: “We were eager to get out there and start using it – as were the rest of the team – once we’d seen the benefits. And we also knew that the only way to get more skilled and quicker at, for example, correcting LDAs was to practice.
“The investment in the kit – and the training – was money well spent. We’ve many happy clients who, now they’ve seen what the endoscopy technique can do, will now ask for it when cows have LDAs or any other stomach issues.
“And working with this kit means that we can also take satisfaction from a job well done. Cows are less stressed and recovery rates are much quicker.”