Arm Yourself!

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For a cattle vet, it’s all in the arm. Whether it’s rubbing shoulders with the girls during a herd check, DA surgery, or dystocia, that arm gets a workout. I’m right-handed, so by convention, it’s my non-dominant (aka left hand) that gets dirty during a herd check. For sinister-sided palpaters, our left hands are generally better at feeling around inside a cow where we can’t see what we’re doing, so the left arm shoulders a lot of the work in delivering a dystocia, too. Then there’s DA surgeries. At Meadow View, we gain the upper-hand via the right-flank approach, so it’s the strapping southern paw that slides in over the rumen, finds the abomasum displaced to the left, deflates it back to the “bottom” of the cow’s belly, then has its hands full guiding the abomasum along the right flank to tack securely into place along the body wall.

When I was a student, I was eager for as many chances as possible to practice palpation. It’s a challenging skill to acquire, and requires a lot more stamina than strength. To prepare for upcoming opportunities, I would add several reps squeezing a stress ball to my textbook-lifting workout routine. Now that I handily perform reproductive exams on cattle almost daily, sometimes hundreds of animals at a time, I’ve turned in my stress ball and instead keep a bottle of ibuprofen and a jar of Tiger Balm handy. Soon I’ll be a head and shoulders above where I was in my student days. Then I’ll be an old head on (hopefully still) young shoulders.


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