It’s another day out at the beef cow farm for me and my fellow food animal classmates. After body condition scoring a couple of cows, and comparing a few hay bales, it seemed like we were destined to get out of lab very early. But then the instructor started talking to us about liver samples and getting a few cows headed into the chute.
Since our instructions did not mention anything about taking liver samples, no one had any clue that we were going to be doing this ourselves. For each cow that came into the chute, a group of 5 students worked together to collect a sample of liver from her. Each person was assigned a specific job, which included giving an IV jugular injection, administering local anesthesia, making the initial incision, taking the liver sample, and suturing the cow back up.
For my job, I caught the cow in the chute as she entered, helped restrain her head with a halter during the jugular injection, and then administered the anesthetic agent. Never having done it before, it was a great experience. With my syringe in hand, I slid the needle between the ribs, right behind the diaphragm. Once inside, I started to slowly pull the needle back, administering some anesthetic as I went, and then deposited the rest underneath the skin.
Next, one of my friends used a scalpel blade (still partway in the package and without the handle) to make a small incision into the abdominal cavity. Next came the interesting part. The next member of our group took the liver biopsy tool and slid it into the cow. Once he found the liver, the sample was collected by opening and then closing the biopsy tool. Afterward, the sample was put on a piece of paper towel for us all to see. It wasn’t very big, just a small dinky little sliver of the liver. Afterward, the cow was sutured back up using a large-gauge needle to thread suture material between the two flaps of skin.
While I certainly wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to do this, it was one of the coolest things I have done in veterinary school so far. Things just keep getting better, and I can’t wait to see what we will get to do next.