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New Grad Top Tips: Dripping a Calf

By John Fitzpatrick MVB MRCVS | May 12th, 2020

Dripping a calf can be a lovely call when it all goes to plan but can turn into a frustrating situation for calf, vet and farmer very quick. The temptation to stick in a cannula and hold on tight is always there but the following method, while takes a few more minutes, will definitely save you time in the long run. Everyone has his or her own way but this is just an example that I was shown as a new grad and stuck to it since. As a farmer there is a certain amount of preparation that can be carried out before the vet arrives and after reading this you will see how. The main things would be having the calf in a clean dry area; a bucket of warm water, a bale of straw/hay and even having the calves legs pre-tied would be great. As a farmer it would be great to have the facility to hang the 3L drip on to save you having to hold it for the duration.
Calf with leg tie

Materials need in your calf drip box: 3l Hartmanns, bicarbonate, giving set, scissors or clippers, a blade, ready made supramid loaded needles (see photo), cannula, a soft rope, Hibiscrub and local anaesthetic.

Fluids should be body temperature so as soon as you arrive to the farm get them into warm water.

Always ensure a full clinical exam is carried out on calf before starting any procedure.

I’m right handed so I place the calf in right lateral recumbency and kneel on the spinal side of the calf. I find it awkward from any other direction.

Tie the four legs together, do this by tying each leg tight and individually using the same rope and then pull all 4 tight together (see photo). Some people go a step further and tie the calf down to a pallet

Clip the area of the jugular extensively. Disinfect the area.

 A 1-2ml bleb of local anaesthetic is administered in the appropriate area subcutaneously above the jugular.

Lift the skin and do a small stab skin incision.

Push the supramid-loaded needle through the skin at the caudal side of the stab skin incision before the cannula is inserted.

Insert the cannula into the jugular and tie the wings in place using the pre-placed suture.

If you are finding it difficult to get the vein place the calf on a bale of straw, allow the head to hang down over the side, it easier to raise and find the vain then.

Attach on the drip and giving set, ensuring that all air is out of the giving set before attachment.

John grew up on a suckler farm in Co. Down. He graduated from University College Dublin in 2012. After graduation he joined Fairgreen Veterinary Centre in Co. Tyrone, where he became a partner in 2018. Fairgreen is an independently owned mixed animal practice. You can find out more and follow the goings on at Fairgreen here. John’s areas of interest are bovine fertility and large animal surgery. He shares some of the interesting cases he see’s on his Instagram page. 

John will be sharing a series of new grad top tips with us here at Vet Space so keep an eye out for his next tip!

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