Monday, July 11, 2016

Surgery on the farm - displaced abomasum

Sometimes in a cow, the abomasum can fill with gas and rise to the top of the abdomen.  This is called a displaced abomasum, or a DA.  This sometimes happens after calving, or it sometimes happens when a cow doesn't eat enough due to another issue, like a sickness.  

The cow then loses her appetite, stops giving as much milk, and has digestive issues in general.  

Today we treated a cow's DA by surgery.  The vet makes an incision, locates the abomasum, returns it to the correct area, tacks it to the body wall, and closes her back up.  

It's rare that we have a DA surgery - this is the fourth one we can remember having in our nine years here.  I was super excited to go see it, and Cole was too!

Becky Bean, a vet at Clinton Veterinary Services, came to do it.  She said she's done hundreds of DA surgeries.  Just the kind of person you want!  

After brushing the area, she clipped the cow's hair.

She cleaned it thoroughly and repeatedly.  Even though you're in a barn, you need a clean and sterile area.

She tied up her tail so she wouldn't switch it into the incision.

After numbing the area, she prepared her instruments, put on her gown and gloves, and prepped her materials for stitching.

She put a drape on the cow to isolate the area, and made the incision.  She carefully cut through the layers.

She found what she was looking for ...

Then with a hollow needle attached to a hose, she had to find the correct place from which to release gas.  She let me smell the gas coming out of the end of the hose.

Cole too.

Here's the abomasum!  Displaced no more!

It was really interesting watching her tack it to the body wall.  She said that your hands just have to remember what to do, and what tension you need, and how to make the stitches.  It reminded me of watching my mom try to teach me how to crochet.

She said it went really well.

Becky stitched her beautifully - it reminded me of a football.

Abomasum back in place.  Thanks, Becky!

We wish our dear cow a speedy recovery.  We'll be watching her extra carefully and hoping she's back to feeling her best soon.

No one wants a DA ... but we'll really do anything to try and take care of our cows.  We're thankful for great vets, employees, and the technology that allows us to care for our herd.

We're also thankful that there's another generation coming up that finds this all as interesting as we do.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016


It's dry, dry, dry.  It rained a little last week, but we only got .10 of an inch.  The corn is curling on the edges.  The grass is brown and crunchy under our bare feet.  It looks unbelievable that the alfalfa will recover from the latest cutting.  The creek is little more than a stream.  

We've been really lucky with rain for a lot of years.  I remember summers like this one - when the rain just misses you and you just have to deal with it.

It'll rain again someday ... it always does.  In the meantime, we're just hoping and frequently checking the 10-day forecast!


On Thursday last week we began the day by giving a tour to my friend Graham Filler and the St Johns Kiwanis Club.  The club was in part founded by my great uncle Stuart Openlander, and it's always nice to talk to people who knew him.

Graham even took a turn in the parlor -


I ended the day by speaking at the Future Farmers of America State Leadership Conference!  My favorite part that was afterward, many of the students came up to talk to me about farming.  They were all so outgoing, well-spoken, and impressive.  They all shook my hand and looked me in the eye, and I couldn't help but notice they had callused palms.  I felt that our industry is literally in good hands!


We're up to 135 heifers and we're starting to wean the first 20 that were born.  The weaned ones will soon move out to the pasture.  The days already seem a tad less hectic.  I mean, there were only three born today!


Aside from the whole farm scene, I'm teaching swimming lessons this month like I have almost every summer since I was 18.  It is so incredibly satisfying to teach a person how to swim.  So that's another side of things ... the heat and lack of rain is terrible for the crops, but WOW, is it great for teaching kids to swim!

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