Most dairy vets probably still drive trucks with fiberglass inserts. I used to, but my last few vehicles were small SUVs with a much smaller cabinet inside, because I do not need to carry all that stuff anymore. What’s in my car has changed a lot. Here are a few of the changes.
IV needle: Like many dairy doctors, I used to carry a couple of reusable, big, 10- to 12-gauge, 3-inch needles. These were used to administer IV medications to adult cows. Now, I carry six or eight disposable, 2-inch, 14-gauge needles. I estimate that I IV a cow once every couple of months now, so I do not need many. Most conditions that require IV therapy are now treated by our farmers or their staff. My standards have changed as well, in that I would never dream of pounding one of those big, dull needles into the neck of an ailing bovine. Disposable needles are cheap.
Calcium: I carry two bottles of 23% calcium and one bottle of CMPK. I used to carry at least six to 10 bottles, because milk fever was much more common and most farmers did not treat their own as they do now. The last milk fever cow I treated had been dried up two days earlier, and the farmer would have treated her except that he did not think milk fever was possible in such a cow. I reminded him that the saying, “Every down cow deserves a bottle of calcium,” is still true. In the old days, I might have treated four to 10 cows for milk fever on a weekend and may have treated some of them twice. Now, I probably treat one every three or four months.
Mastitis tubes and antibiotics: I do not carry any lactating or dry tubes. Ninety percent or more of our product sales are done direct to the farm, so I do little dispensing. We could not do that in the old days, so everything went off the truck or out of the office. Plus, I rarely treat cows for mastitis anymore. I used to carry at least three kinds of lactating tubes and a couple boxes of dry tubes. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that some of those lactating tubes were squeeze-jets filled with a variety of antibiotics and antibiotic concoctions. We thought we were doing the right thing, but today, we understand treatment failure is not usually due to using the wrong antibiotic and the use of antibiotics by dairy veterinarians is much more regulated. As everyone knows, there are only a few parenteral antibiotics we can use in dairy cows, so I carry ceftiofur in various forms, ampicillin and long-acting tetracycline. I do have two or three bottles of other antibiotics for treating respiratory disease in calves. I do not carry any antibiotics or disinfectants for uterine infusions or cleaning cows, because we do not do that anymore either. I used to carry enough tetracycline to infuse at least a couple dozen cows.
Restraint aids: I carry a halter, cow hobbles, a 3-foot section of chain with extra snaps and a trailer tie-down strap. I used to carry a nose lead and a block and tackle apparatus to lift feet. The tie-down strap is used to restrain cows for surgery if a farm does not have a proper chute. Hobbles are for particularly agitated cows or for cows that might need some sort of surgery on the teats or udder. In the old days, I did not carry hobbles or the tie-down strap because I was young, did not think I needed to and, in retrospect, stupid. Now, the nose lead seems to cause too much fear and unpleasantness for the cow, so I would not use it even if I had to IV a cow. Cows are, on average, much calmer than in the old days too. If one cannot hit a vein with a halter, one probably cannot hit a vein. The chain is useful for a bunch of things, including attaching behind a cow in a chute so she cannot back up, to tie a swinging gate to the post on the wall when we are trying to assist a calving cow and other situations where something needs to be tied down. Plus, one can never have too many snaps.
Rectal sleeves: I carry two bags of 100. I palpate a lot of cows and assist with dystocia. Now, I carry a portable ultrasound machine, which did not even exist in the old days.
Computers: I have a computer, a cell phone and an iPad. I used to have paper invoices in a steel box. Back then, computers were bigger than my car, phones were attached to a wall, and there was no iPad because apple was only something we ate. Now, we do mobile invoicing, mobile reporting, mobile health certificates and veterinary feed directives, and so much more. We have a variety of other electronic gadgets, too, that we sometimes bring to farms.
What has changed in my car reflects the big changes the dairy industry has seen in the last 40 years. I will not be around in another 40 years, but I sure would like to know what will be in Doc’s car then, and I bet what’s in there will have changed again.
Bennett is one of four dairy veterinarians at Northern Valley Dairy Production Medicine Center in Plainview, Minnesota. He also consults on dairy farms in other states. He and his wife, Pam, have four children. Jim can be reached at [email protected] with comments or questions.