Marshmallows, feed sacks and bovine reproduction

November 8, 2016
Bo Brock, DVM

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

This is one prolapse case Dr. Brock wont soon forget.

The cowboy had a strange look on his face as I walked toward the trailer that held his stricken cow. I had known this fella for years and couldn't recall ever seeing him look so perplexed.

His phone call an hour ago had been a short one. He told me one of his cows needed its uterus put back in and asked if I would meet him at the clinic. I had replaced many a prolapsed uterus for the gentleman, and I couldn't imagine what would produce such an puzzled look.

It's a fairly long walk from the back of my clinic to the unloading alley, so I had a minute to evaluate the situation. The cow stood facing me in the trailer and it almost seemed like she had a strange look on her face too. Hmm … what would cause an old cowboy and his cow to both appear so perplexed?

As I got a closer, the cow turned a bit and I could see her backside. There was no prolapse. I continued to study the cowboy's face as I shook his hand and wondered what had become of the prolapse. If you've never seen a prolapsed uterus, it reminds me of a moist, pink version of the Stay Puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters with knobs on it. Once the uterus falls out of a cow, it takes an act of congress to get it poked back in. I have wrestled with these cases for hour upon hour, and there was no way this cow's uterus sucked itself back in on its own during the trailer ride.

“What happened to the prolapse, Tom? I've never seen one of those resolve on its own. And why do you have such an odd look on your face?” I asked.

“Well that's just it, Doc. I asked you to meet me here to put a uterus back in, not a prolapse.”

Now I was the one with a puzzled look on my face. Tom didn't offer any more explanation. He just stood there looking at me like I was supposed to understand what he meant. Finally, he realized I was lost and began explaining what happened.

“Well, Doc, seems this ole cow had a young'un this afternoon and she spilled her uterus. You know what I'm talking about-you and I have fixed many of 'em together. This cow was way out in the back of the Smith pasture and we had to rope her to get her in the trailer. Dave got the calf and I took out after the cow.

“She was running pretty fast and the terrain was rough,” he continued. I guess I got my loop a little too big and somehow, during the commotion, all I got roped was that big ole uterus. I didn't realize it until it was too late, and I pulled the whole uterus off in one piece. But I put it in a feed sack and thought maybe you could put it back on.”

This was a new one. We got the cow out of the trailer and put her in the chute. Somehow Tom had cinched that rope down tight enough around the base of the uterus that it ligated those vessels with friction heat or constriction-and she wasn't bleeding at all.

To a cowboy, a feed sack is a sterile environment. One of Tom's roping buddies had had his thumb pulled off and they put the thumb in a feed sack, took him to the hospital and the doctors sewed it back on. He assumed I was gonna be able to do the same thing with a 40-pound uterus.

Wasn't gonna happen.

The cow, amazingly, lived. And of course, just to be funny, they ran her through the working chute that fall while I was palpating the rest of the herd for pregnancy just to see if I would call her bred. Thank God I said she was open.