How do you know if...and what do you do when...a cow needs surgery?
First of all, here is a short cow anatomy lesson...
Cows have four stomachs....the last one is called the Abomasum. It normally lies below the rumen, but if for some reason the large rumen is smaller in size than usual, the abomasum can slip out of place and "float" up around the rumen, usually on the cow's left side. It then gets trapped between the rumen and the wall of the cow's body. This is called a LDA (left displaced abomasum) This usually requires veterinary intervention to fix, but typically the cow makes a complete and quick recovery. Less often, it floats to the right (RDA), and this is much more serious. In farmer lingo, we call this a twist, or a twisted stomach.
If you'd like to read a more detailed, and very easy-to-understand explanation, click here.
What are the symptoms of a twisted stomach?
The cow goes "off feed", usually only picking at some hay, and she might act depressed. Her manure may be "tight', a result of eating mostly hay and not eating her grain.
When does it happen?
Like several other conditions, it usually it happens soon after she freshens. (you can read more at the link above)
How do we diagnose a twist?
Here, Jim is holding a stethoscope to the cow's side with his right hand, while flicking a finger of his left hand on her side. If she's "twisted", he will hear a "ping", indicating gas in her displaced abomasum.
What do we do?
Different vets handle twists differently, but our vet operates by making an incision in her right side, putting the abomasum back into it's proper place and stitching it fast to the abdominal wall so that it cannot slip out of place again. We take the cow to the vet's facility where the fifteen minute operation is performed, and then we bring her back home again.
It's a little hard to see here, but how's that for a neat line of stitches?
This particular cow freshened on Saturday morning, had milk fever a day or so later, and twisted on Wednesday. We do everything we can to keep them eating after calving...we keep lots of good quality dry hay in front of them...we introduce them very slowly to any different feed than they were getting as a dry cow...but sometimes it just happens.
She came back into the barn after surgery and began eating. This makes us quite happy...to watch a surgery cow begin eating again, and now two days later, clean up everything we put in front of her!
Thankfully it doesn't happen often, but...just in case you ever wondered...
Linking up to Farm Girl Friday.