One Twist Deserves Another

D. E. Larsen, DVM

I ran my hand into Rosie’s vagina a second time. It still ran into a blind pouch. Rosie was a prized Jersey cow that supplied milk to a lot of neighbors.

“What the heck is going on?” I asked myself. “I had never had a dystocia in a Jersey before unless it was associated with milk fever.”

I explored the pouch with my fingertips. Then the light finally flashed on. This was a full uterine torsion. Partial torsions were common. In fact, I sort of prided myself at being able to untwist a uterus that was half rotated. 

I used my left arm’s strength, I would rock the calf a little, and then, with a strong flip, I would turn it upright. The narrowed twisted vagina would open completely, and delivery would be a snap after the correction. This was a full 360-degree torsion. The vagina was twisted closed like the top of a plastic bag. I tried to advance my hand through the twisted vagina, to no avail.

My thought was to get my hand into the uterus with a detorsion rod and hook the feet to the rod. Then with a bar through the other end of the detorsion rod, I could untwist the uterus with a strong crank. But that wasn’t going to happen. I could not begin to advance my hand through the twisted vagina.

“Carol, there is full 360-degree uterine torsion,” I said. “I can’t get my hand through it. That means we are probably going to have to do a C-Section.”

There was a gathering crowd in this small backyard barn lot. It seemed that half of Crawfordsville was watching.

“Is that the only option,” John asked.

I started to reply, but the question had started the wheels turning in my memory bank.

“I am sort of short on tricks,” I said. “But there is one that we could try. I have never done it. In fact, I have never seen it done. It might be worth a try. I will need 2 by 12 plank, about 12 feet long.”

“We just happen to have one of those,” Carol said. “Over in that lumber pile.”

A couple of guys pulled the plank out of the lumber pile and had it beside Rosie in no time. I had everyone’s full attention now. Nobody had any idea what I was up to.

“This is the plan,” I explained. “We lay Rosie on her side, lay this plank across her belly, with the plank’s midpoint on her belly. Then we roll Rosie to her other side while some brave soul stands on the plank. The plank holds the calf while the Rosie turns, thus undoing the uterine torsion. The only trick is to make sure you roll her the right way.”

“And just how are you going to lay her down on her side?” Bill asked. “I suppose you just ask her.”

“That’s another trick that I use all the time,” I said. “It’s called the Flying W. If you haven’t seen it, you will be impressed.”

I got my large cotton rope and placed the middle of the rope over Rosie’s neck. I crossed the rope between her front legs and brought it up each side, crossing again in the middle of her back. Then I bring both ends out between her hind legs, on each side of her udder, the application was complete. A slight pull, and Rosie fell to her right side.

“I’ll be darned,” Bill said.

I positioned the plank across Rosie’s belly. With the midpoint in the middle of Rosie’s belly. This would be enough plank to make a full turn for Rosie. The plank was at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. It might take an agile person to ride it for the entire arc.

I looked around at the crowd.

“I can stand on the plank,” Carol said. “She is my cow, and there was a day that I was somewhat of a gymnast.”

I positioned Carol on the plank, about four feet up the plank from the ground. I had a couple of guys on each rope tied to both the front and hind feet.

“Now, we are going to go very slow,” I said. “I need to have my hand in her vagina to make sure we are turning the correct way. I tend to be a little dyslexic, and I have trouble figuring this out.”

With my hand in the vagina, I had the guys start lifting on the feet. Sure enough, the twist was tightening.

“Okay, all stop,” I said. “We are going the wrong way. We have to start all over with Rosie on her left side.”

It only took a couple of minutes to untie Rosie’s feet and remove the plank. I didn’t have to do much. The whole crew knew what was up and what needed to be done.

With Rosie on her feet, Bill quickly grabbed the ends of the ropes on the Flying W. He wanted to feel just how easy it worked.

“Now, we want her to fall on the left side,” I said. “So when you pull, you want to lean left and put all the pressure in that direction.”

Bill pulled, leaned left, and Rosie flopped to her left side. Bill had a big smile on his face.

“That was so easy, I can’t believe it,” Bill said.

“If you are throwing a big bull, or an ornery steer, it might take a couple of guys on each rope,” I said. “But I have never seen it fail.”

The rest of the crew had Rosie’s feet tied and the plank in place in no time. Carol jumped on the plank, and we rolled Rosie.

After standing Rosie up, I washed her up one more time. I ran my hand it into a normal birth canal. I didn’t let on, but I was almost as amazed as was the crowd watching. I grabbed both front feet of the calf and pulled them into the birth canal. As I turned to my bucket for my OB straps, Rosie strained, and out popped the head. One more strain, and both John and I caught the calf before it fell to the ground.

“That was easy,” John said.

“Jersey cows have the easiest deliveries of all the breeds,” I said.

We turned Rosie loose, and she turned her attentions to the little heifer calf, utterly oblivious to the crowd watching.

Photo by Tom Swinnen from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

8 thoughts on “One Twist Deserves Another

  1. Sir, you are a man of many talents…Rope tricks with a side order of plank..I am utterly amazed at these stories…You need to unretire and come back to practice…


    1. I am afraid that there has been far too many changes between the time of these stories and now for for that to be realistic. Not only has the Veterinary Profession changed immensely, but people have also changed. These stories touch 4 or 5 generations. In reality, my practice of the 1970s or 1980s does not exist today.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Many of your stories from the veterinary side remind me of ones my mother told me about from her time in the Frontier Nursing Service down in rural eastern Kentucky during the 40s and 50s. The nurses had to travel by horseback up into the hills to get to many of the cabins. Sometimes sick children were brought back down to the clinic that way. Those times have passed and the people are different, but there is value and lessons to be taught to future generations regarding the exceptional observational skills, resourcefulness and ability to use what was at hand in earlier times. I am glad to see you passing on your knowledge here.

        Liked by 1 person

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