Sotirios’ Vet Decathlon Blog 10

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Dynamic Test Reveals Cause of Teat Damage

Another week, another dynamic milk parlour test. This time, with the cows grazing day and night and with the weather getting better, it was carried out during the evening. The issue was, again, teat end damage, so a teat scoring session ensued. We found that almost one in six cows, instead of an expected one in twenty, sustained what we call severe hyperkeratosis.

It’s the equivalent of the callous a toe develops if shoes are too tight. For whatever reason, the units were left on for far too long and the quarter was letting down small amounts of milk. Hopefully the situation will now have been resolved and when we go back in six or so weeks time, the problem will have disappeared


Tooth and Claw

Modern veterinary surgery on the cow’s foot is the equivalent of human dentistry. Like the dentist, we are trying to preserve every single, little part of the foot that we can. If there was a severe foot problem twenty or more years ago, we would have invariably resorted to removing the foot.

Then cows were smaller, probably 30 years ago an average Friesian cow would have weighed between 450 or 500 kilos. Now the more Holstein cows weigh 700 to 800 or, rarely, even 900 kilos.  If there are any issues with the feet, then we try to preserve as much of it as we can in order to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. On this occasion that particular cow was suffering with the result of digital dermatitis.  It’s called a vertical crack, when digital dermatitis affects the periople, or the coronary band. It’s the horn producing layer that is responsible for the wall of the foot, the wall horn.

If that is damaged due to infection with digital dermatitis, then no horn is produced and a crack gradually develops, from the top of the foot all the way down to the sole. This particular cow was being treated by the farmer, but sadly the crack got the better of him, and of her, and the time came to remove that claw. Again, the speed of the procedure is important. It’s a well managed and very predictable procedure and took the best part of 10 to 12 minutes. There was a little blood loss, as there would be with a tooth extraction.

It’s an unfortunate experience – whether in tooth or claw, human or bovine.


Out of Hours Rodeo!

An out of hours call to a suckler cow calving this week should have been relatively routine.  In fact it ended up with the farmer chasing his cow through at least four fields, before we could get her into the examination pen.

I was a little worried that I’d also have to give chase, but thankfully the farmer set off after her on his quad. She had high tailed it as soon as she knew there was a visitor on the farm. It probably took a good 20 minutes to get her back, during which time she had jumped through and over hedges.

We were concerned that the stress might affect the cow and the calf and that we’d end up with a dead calf, which would have been a massive loss.  Especially as my experience this calving season has been that there have been bigger calves and lambs than at this time last year. Part of the reason is, in my opinion, due to the rich, lush grass that grew in the autumn, with the energy in the grass translating as increased calf or foetal growth in the womb.

A dead calf would probably have been that cow’s profit. But there was an exceptionally good ending and the exercise probably facilitated an easier calving. The calf came out very easily. By the time she was in the examination pen, there was a nice nose and legs were showing. We got the ropes on the legs, then we gave a bit of a gentle pull with a calving jack and the calf came out. The mother took great interest in the calf which got up quickly.

The cow then had oxytocin. Every time I’m involved in calving or a lambin I use oxytocin as it reduces the size of the womb very quickly and any damage and tears reduce in size as well.