At this time of the year, we are particularly busy with calvings. Many farmers aim to calve their cows in spring or autumn so we are currently called to several calvings every day.
Many cows who are having problems calving can be dealt with so that they can have their calves normally but many of the difficult calvings we are called to result in a caesarean section being required.
Cows generally have their caesarean operation performed under sedation and local anaesthetic. This allows them to stand during the procedure which decreases the risk of infection and makes the job less back breaking for the vet.
We perform the operation on the left side of the cow’s flank as cows have 4 stomachs and the largest stomach, the rumen, sits further back in the abdomen on the right hand side so it would get in the way if the procedure were performed on the right.
The hair is shaved with electric clippers and then local anaesthetic is injected in a large inverted L pattern to numb the area. The shaved area is then scrubbed with antiseptic solution and every effort is made to keep that area clean during the procedure – this can be quite a challenge as some cows are more restless than others during the procedure.
A vertical incision is made through the skin and muscle layers to enter the abdomen. Depending on the size of the calf the incision may need to be up to 16 inches long. Reaching into the cow’s abdomen, the vet has to locate the calf within the womb and draw one of the calf’s legs to the outside where an incision can be made through the lining of the womb and the calf is pulled out of the cow.
Then the process of putting things back together begins – the womb is stitched in 2 layers, then the muscle is closed, again in 2 layers and then lastly the skin is stitched. The womb and muscle is stitched with a suture material the dissolves but the skin is stitched with nylon that must be removed by the farmed a few weeks after the procedure.
The cow is given antibiotics and painkillers then she can be left with the calf to start the important job of rearing her new offspring.