Tracy Ann Raef, Veterinary Communications, (515) 294-4602
Working on the hooves of cattle that can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds is not for the faint of heart. Handling very large, and sometimes fractious, cows and bulls can be risky business, even for large animal veterinarians who are trained to do so.
Recently, the veterinarians at Iowa State University’s Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center got a new piece of equipment – a hydraulic tilt chute – that allows them to do foot work more safely and efficiently.
“The tilt chute is used mainly for lameness examinations isolated to the feet or lower limbs of an animal, corrective foot trimming, and applying foot bandages,” says Dr. Jennifer Schleining who specializes in large animal surgery at the Lloyd VMC.
Without a tilt chute or table, a veterinarian would need to “lay the animal down with a short-acting anesthetic or use a rope-restraint system to tie the animal’s feet up in a regular working chute.” While the rope system can be useful on farms when a veterinarian just needs to look at a foot or remove a bandage, a tilt table or chute is the only way to do extensive procedures such as paring out deep sole abscesses, and doing regional limb blocks, she explains. “Even routine hoof trimming is more efficient and safer for the patient and veterinarian,” Schleining added.
“On a surgeon’s wish list, the tilt chute ranks pretty low,” she said. “But, as a large animal veterinarian who values patient safety while saving my back and limbs, it ranks very high.”
The tilt chute at the VMC includes an in-floor scale for weight assessment (allowing accurate and precise medication dosing) and a hydraulic head-restraint system that is useful for dehorning procedures, eye examinations, and other procedures that require the animal’s head to remain still. The tilt chute is rated to hold up to 5,500 pounds.
“We’ve had a 2,000-pound bull in the chute, and he did pretty darn well,” Schleining said.
Once the animal is in the chute, the veterinarian uses the hydraulic levers to safely squeeze the animal, lift it off the ground, and slowly rotate the animal until it is on its side. Panels located on the bottom of the chute open to allow the veterinarian to access the feet. Once the veterinarian is finished, the hydraulic system is again used to return the animal to its normal upright position.
So, what must go through the cow’s mind while it’s being tipped? “Most of them tolerate it very well,” said Schleining. “But you can definitely see the look of bewilderment in their eyes as soon as they tilt past 45 degrees.”