FARMING: Getting prepared if a Caesarean is needed
Caesareans are our most commonly performed surgery for our farm team however, although they have become routine, it is important that we remember that performing abdominal surgery on a large animal in the middle of a shed or field is not without its risks!
We have written some helpful tips of things you can do before we arrive to make sure Caesareans go as smoothly as possible:
1. Restraint: A suitable crush ideally gives access to the cow’s left side and has bars high enough to prevent the cow kicking but low enough to still allow plenty of room to deliver the calf. A halter is also handy to prevent the cow moving backwards and forwards.
2. Hygiene: The area where the surgery is going to take place needs to be as clean as possible. If the sides of the crush are not clean we can place a drape over the bars in case the cow’s incision comes into contact with it.
3. Surgical table: An area to put surgical instruments is really helpful. Some old palates, straw bales or a table means instruments are near to hand if needed and kept as sterile as possible.
4. Clean straw: Putting down some fresh straw for the calf to lie on once delivered will help it warm up, dry and get standing quicker.
5. Preparation: Clipping the cow before we arrive means we can start surgery straight away. The area to be clipped needs to be on the left hand side from the last rib back to the pelvis.
6. Water: Two buckets of water ready means that one can be used to scrub the cow and one can be used for us to scrub our hands and make sure we are as sterile as possible. A bucket of cold water can also come in handy to splash on the calf if it is slow to get going.
7. Tail: Tying up the cow’s tail means that she will be unable to swish it and have any contact with her incision, thereby preventing introduction of faeces and bacteria into the abdomen.
8. Drugs: Giving the cow pain relief and antibiotics before we arrive means they will be on board before the surgery starts and saves time once we arrive.
9. Lighting: Good lighting is essential so we can see what we are doing and make our sutures as neat as possible.
10. People: Extra pairs of hands really make a difference in both getting the calf out and in helping us to stitch up afterwards. Having someone free to resuscitate the calf once it is out also means we can focus on the cow and get her closed up quicker.
Caesareans can be complicated but by being prepared and having all the necessary equipment and help to hand we can greatly increase the chance of ending up with a live cow and calf, whilst also hopefully reducing the time spent on farm and the cost involved!