A couple of weeks ago I got to assist with a bovine cesarean! This was the first c-section they've done in the 3 1/2 years I've been here. Butch and Bertha called me to let me know what was going on. I raced down to the barn with the kids. I was pretty nervous and giddy with excitement. The cow was already in the head catch. Bud gave her a shot in the spine, and then several shots around the area we’d be cutting. The cow stood up the whole time. Bud started cutting her, then he let me take over. It was very strange to cut a living creature like that. I am used to cutting up the cows when we butcher, and this was like reverse butchering. She didn’t bellow or moo or anything. I worked very slowly. Butch was standing between me and her leg, and several times she tried to kick me away. As the painkillers started working, her kicks became half-hearted, and eventually she stopped. Bud later explained that the cows have a greater survival rate when you don’t completely block all the sensation. They are pretty tough animals.
Anyway, once I had cut through all the skin and muscle, Bud took over. He let me feel around inside her abdomen but I didn’t really know what I was feeling. Then he cut the uterus and quickly pulled the calf out. The calf was severely deformed. His organs were all completely formed, but there was no skin over them. They were exposed. He had skin over his arms, legs, and head. Normal presentation for a calf is front feet first, followed by the head, then the rest of the body. This calf had presented his intestines first. His back legs were folded back over his head, almost touching the front legs. She never would have birthed him herself. Bud guessed he had only died a day or so before the cow had gone into labor.
After we pulled the placenta out Bertha sewed up the uterus with catgut. Bud scooped out as much fluid from the abdomen as possible. He told me that amniotic fluid in their abdomen will kill them. Then he sewed up her skin. He pursed the skin together, making it “pucker”. He said that way it won’t scar. I tried to help with one stitch but didn’t quite get the hang of it, so he finished the job. Butch washed her off with disinfectant and we let her go. She just walked away as the painkillers were starting to wear off.
Bud told me later that he was impressed with my cutting because she hardly bled at all. The cow survived, although we did sell her. Many cows can go on to have normal births after a c-section, but we don't take the chance.