Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preg Testing

I have watched many an episode of 'The Farmer Wants A Wife' and rolled my eyes whenever those poor girls were subject to a preg testing adventure. In all my years out here, CP has never encouraged me to have a go at doing this, and I suppose it used to irk me that it's not a legitimate example of how the poor girls would spend their days on the farm anyway. I mean if I have thus far avoided it, it doesn't have to be that common practise!

If you don't know what preg testing is, then just imagine putting your ARM inside the rear of a cow and trying to feel for a calf. Unless you are from a rural or farming background or are a vet, the thought of doing this is completely UNAPPEALING.

But this year I decided I needed to suck it up. If I want to make sweeping comments about something, it's best to do it with a little experience under my belt. And so I put in a polite phone call to our local vet and asked if it would be okay if I 'had a go'. After the laughing stopped, she agreed that it should be fine. And then I started to feel like maybe I didn't really want to do it, and spent the next few days psyching myself up to it again.

Here's how the day went.

Libby (the vet) had told me to wear dark colours or old clothes because apparently cow manure is very difficult to remove from your clothing. Nice. So I dug into the deep, dark recesses of my wardrobe to locate an old pair of jeans and my RB Sellers farm shirt. I decided that today was definitely a 'hair up' kind of day, and then opted against makeup. I didn't think that the cows would care either way how my face looked. I removed my wedding rings. (Even with the protection of gloves, I wasn't planning on losing my diamonds inside the rear of any living animal. So they stayed at home.)

I had arranged for my friend and neighbour, Leesa, to come and be my photographer for the day. I wasn't planning on weilding a camera whilst inserting my arm into some cows nether regions. CP was more concerned about me getting in the way, so he wasn't volunteering to take photos either.

Me, Libby (Vet) and CP

When Libby arrived with all of her gear, she explained that preg testing has evolved now so that a little ultra sound device is becoming the new (less invasive and less physically taxing) method of discovering if a beast is 'in calf' or 'empty'. This new method involves a phallic looking object which is inserted into a beast and then takes an ultrasound picture.

Phallic object/ultrasound device

She also explained that in cows who were more heavily in calf, it was generally still easier to do it the old fashioned way. Here's how it generally works. Cattle are guided through a series of pens leading to a type of 'race' where they wait their turn. Then they are moved, one at a time into the 'crush'. (It sounds worse than it really is.) Essentially, the crush is just a type of 'cage' to hold the beast in place so that they can be more closely assessed or whatever it is you need to do with them at the time. Today it was to see if they were pregnant or not. This is the crush...

Sadly for CP (who was on crush duty today), the crush was a little difficult. This often results in a few 'F' bombs being thrown around. Luckily for CP, what happens in the yards stays in the yards, and we all kiss and make up in time for smoko anyway. Things were progressing at a steady pace in any event.

After watching for a period of time, I suited up...

And following Libby's careful instructions, I lubed up...

And then I did as I was told and gently inserted my hand...

Ahhhh, I mean ARM...

And then as soon as I felt the leg of the unborn calf I had my hand out of there faster than lightning! It was exciting, terrifying and interesting. But once I had done it, I was out of there. I didn't want to slow down the day and do anything wrong, so I left the professionals to it.

And after I'd had my moment of glory as a 'real farmer's wife' (just like in the show...) I was sent back to a job where I couldn't get in the way. A job that CP assured me was both important, and more suited to me...

So there I stood for the remainder of the morning. Opening and closing that gate. Knowing that I was doing a good job. And not getting in the way.

Preg testing is a physically challenging job that really does require considerable knowledge and experience to do successfully. I take my hat off to anyone who has to do this job seriously. I had my bit of fun, but could never contemplate doing this seriously. Furthermore, today made me realise that in order to be a farmer's wife, you don't actually already have to be a farmer yourself (or a vet, or anything really - even though it probably helps). I am definitely more suited to teaching, and all the other things it is that I do, and so I'm not going to be in a huge rush to get out and do it again... (Mind you, I WAS pretty good on that gate).

Thanks again to Libby for your patience, and Leesa for taking photos... and CP for not totally losing your cool with me in the yards. x


  1. it should be pointed out that ones arm is inserted into the umm, pooing part rather than the girly bits, a mistake that a recent friend of mine was about to make when she had a go at preg testing! The calf (or lack of)is felt through the bowel wall, and good preg testing practitioners can tell if a cow is in calf down to around 6 weeks of pregnancy. However the bigger the calf obviously the quicker it is to do the job.

  2. Hey Sharon! Oh yes - absolutely. The vet we use has it down to a fine art, and also our cattle are fairly far along in their pregnancies. So yesterday was quite 'easy'... even for a non-expert such as myself. x

  3. I did it as a kiddo and have no desire to do it again, besides these days we ALWAYS have the vet do it so there can be no worries of mistakes. He always uses the probe unless there is a lot of 'stuff' in the way of a clear view!

  4. You are brave - don't think I could bring myself to do it.

  5. Well done! The only time they even preg test out here is when they want to check a cow really is barren before spaying her (cow version of getting tubes tied)so she can go out and get fat before sale. You are right to you don't have to put your hand up a cows butt or anything else to be a farmer's wife having an interest helps though. Gate openers are always in need and it is a much easier job and builds up those arm muscles.


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