About

The website acts as a roof under which I keep information about my work and scientific interests, potential educational material and presentation of topics that tickle my interest regarding animal behavior, welfare and veterinary medicine. At times there may be posts about ongoing research projects I participate in. Quite rarely, an opinion post might show up.

I am mainly interested in research focusing on the behavior and welfare of cattle, and their association with good health and productivity. This, however, does not exclude an interest in other species – I think ruminant farm animals in general as well as pigs are fantastic to observe and work with. Furthermore, my job as a clinician for companion animals often involves forming and applying behavioral solutions for my patients.

I hope you will find something useful or interesting among these pages. Thank you for visiting!

My former testing calves still remember me and come for cuddles.

Moved and settled at WordPress

New year, new server and a simpler website to (try and) keep track of everything that is interesting to me (and perhaps you, dear reader) in the scientific world of animals. I will not make promises of posting once per week or per month, but the long-term goal is indeed to make a few posts per month. There is wealth of information to post and ponder about, both on the subject of cattle welfare and behavior as well as on weekly cases I see at work on companion animal behavior and medicine.

Bear with me as I currently dedicate a large chunk of my weekdays working on a potential research proposal on cattle behavior, and the rest of the time working with my incredible colleagues at C&C companion animal clinic.

Upcoming topics list

Here is a constantly updated list of topics I would like to write about – now if only I can make time for it. Got an interesting topic you’d like me to look up in scientific literature? Send me a message!

Cattle

  • Manure solids as bedding for dairy cows: does it work and under which conditions?
  • Dipping versus spraying after milking. Which is best?
  • Environmental enrichment in cattle. What has been tried so far?
  • Anesthesia and NSAIDs when dehorning calves.
  • Rumen acidosis in newborn and young calves – treatment and prevention.
  • Use of NSAIDs in dairy cattle – a small overview from scientific literature.
  • Quick cow tips: diarrhea in newborn calves pt2, and a check leaflet for calf routines.

Companion animals

  • My personal experience with having a mouse as a pet, and what I’ve learned from it  thus far.

 

My two months in Vasen

The post was written during my time at Vasen Gård, where I conducted the experiment for my Master’s thesis.

The past two months were very motivational for me, and it would probably take pages to explain the magnitude of the positive impact I got from being at the farm and working with animals and great people – but I’ll try to stick to the basics. Important changes and realizations regarding my interests in science, work prospects and life preferences took place while I was there, conducting my study on calf behavior.

When it comes to science, it was an incredible experience to actually conduct a proper scientific experiment for the first time. I was amazed at how much one has to and can learn for the experimental process. Every moment is useful: frustrating moments where you consider giving up, or when you think of improved sampling solutions midway through your data collection and wish you’d have thought of that in the beginning. Good moments where your results respond to your expectations, and great moments where you get new ideas for more experiments while sampling. Indescribable moments when the animals you collaborate with seem to enjoy your presence and your interactions with them.

I also came to realize that, if possible, science is what I wish to do in my life. I feel that I am made for the scientific process: tinkering my mind for ideas, reading through tons of literature to learn about all the interesting findings of other researchers, designing an experiment, going through a period of time dedicated to focused data collection, then sitting down and trying to make sense of all the data that was gathered. Perhaps discover something that could be of use to the world. Perhaps not, but then trying another route. Discussing with brilliant colleagues and getting even more new ideas. Yep, I’m up for that kind of job!

One very important aspect that I verified is that I want to work with farm animal welfare and behavior. Cattle, if possible, as I am in love with these animals. At Vasen, I was also given the opportunity to do some voluntary veterinary work, and deepen my knowledge on cattle medicine and behavior. It is a fact now that I want to work with animals, in the sense of, at least partly, actually do hands-on work with them. Thus, being at the farm and doing this experiment helped me at least set some broad limits to what I’d like to research and/or work with after completing the Master’s program. It is a sort of relief knowing where and what to focus on when this critical time arrives.

Aside from figuring out work and science-related questions that I had in mind, I also established that a) working with animals makes me feel balanced and happy, b) working with different farms is a very rewarding experience, both in matters of job satisfaction and of learning and c) living in a small town near nature is definitely better for me, compared to a city. I also realized that being happy with what I do in life has a very positive impact on how I feel as a person and how I interact with the people closest to me. So, feeling good at work is apparently very important for my well-being.

Of course, during all of this thought-provoking, self-realizing period of time, I had some excellent support and collaboration with Vasen’s wonderful people, my supervisor, and my family and friends. So I want to make a proper mention of a rather long list of people who contributed to my advancing one step further towards my life goals:

  • THANK YOU Vasen! Kjell and Ingrid, for having me at the farm, for treating me like family and for letting me learn through diagnosing your animals! Johanna, for being my connection to everything at the farm, a huge assistance to me when learning about cattle, a source of inspiration and a fantastic company! Thank you to all the incredible staff at Vasen for making me feel more than welcomed and assisting me every time I needed help: Armen, Benjamin, Berith & Per, Ceci 1 and Ceci 2, Johanna, Lawrence & Mia, Niklas, Nver, Viktor – and everyone else whose name I cannot recall because I am terrible at learning names (please do message me and let me know so I can add you to the list)! And thank you to veterinarian Susanne Lundin for discussing veterinary incidents at the farm with me and broadening my knowledge on a number of subjects!
  • Thank you so very much to veterinarian Johanna Habbe for connecting me to Vasen, for supporting and inspiring me to be an even better veterinarian!
  • A huge thank you to my supervisor, Matthias, for all his support, precious advice and guidance throughout this project! Also, for the excellent management during all the times I was stressed over the limit.
  • My most loving thanks to my partner, Henrik, for supporting me and listening to my endless enthusiastic cattle talk every single day, for cheering for me, helping me move to and from the farm and for visiting me. The same loving thanks to my parents who have believed in me since day 1 and have done all in their power to help me achieve my dreams. Also, for constructing the awesome experimenting apparatus Matthias designed – thanks dad! 😀
  • A very big thank you to all my classmates from the Master’s for helping me out in whatever way they could when I was looking for a farm, and for being supportive and kind at all times. Same goes for those outside the Master’s who have been there and listened to me or offered their encouragement and help! 🙂
  • A very special thank you to my former workmate Marie for doing all she could to help me look for farms in Östergötland in the beginning of the project! This also goes to all of Fröstorp’s staff and veterinarian Ole Martin Hegrestad, who helped me learn a great deal about cattle and have always been helpful and encouraging. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t spend one year rich in experiences at the farm. Special mention to Peter and Sławek, having been the closest to me together with Marie, assisting me through my road to understanding and handling cows.

Well, to sum up: Working with animals is fantastic. Doing science is incredibly rewarding. The best choice in my life so far was to become a veterinarian and do a Master’s in animal behavior. The people that surround me (more or less familiar) are responsible for a great deal of my happiness, and for making my work choices and efforts worth even more.

Ah, what an unbelievable two months that was. Now, on to the next phase of the adventure! 🙂

Today’s vet farm news

The post was written during my time at Vasen Gård, where I conducted the experiment for my Master’s thesis.

The past few days we’ve had another incident of acute mastitis caused by E. coli infection. The cow is not doing very well, with two quarters of the udder being infected, painful and very swollen, and she’s milking small quantities of watery fluid for the time being. She currently has mild hypothermia (37,6 °C) due to lack of appetite and most likely hypoglycemia, but fortunately she is drinking a lot of water by herself. She is being treated with meloxicam and trimethoprim-sulfadoxine. Supportive treatment in the form of intravenous fluids and electrolytes can also be valuable in acute mastitis from E. coli. A very good article on the treatment of this and other forms of mastitis is available at the online version of The Merck Veterinary Manual.

Today Johanna and I treated two calves with burst abscesses by washing the abscess pouch with strong iodine solution and applying penicillin ointment. One calf had an abscess located under the skin surrounding the carpus – the joint is unaffected and the wound should heal fast. The other calf had an abscess under the skin surrounding the navel, also without any signs of further infection to internal organs. Both calves are otherwise happy and well, very active and well-fed 🙂

 

Helping cows with hind muscle/nerve injuries

Injuries in the hind muscles and nerves most commonly occur after the birth of a big calf (or the labor of a small-sized cow/heifer) or after excessive pulling and manipulation of the fetus during calving. The problem can also be seen in cows with hypocalcemia, especially those with the sneaky subclinical form where the animal can stand up but is “shaky” and uncertain in its steps and posture. These cows are in high risk of slipping and falling, or of spreading their hind legs in one of their efforts to stand up. Finally, older cows that calved numerous times can be susceptible to spreading their hind legs, most often due to a underlying subclinical hypocalcemia and chronic damage to muscles and/or nerves during calving. Slippery floors are perhaps the most important reason why such cows fall down or spread their hind legs while trying to get up.

The usual incident is finding a fully alert and otherwise healthy cow unable to stand up or fallen with its hind legs spread (overabduction of the hind limbs).

Provided that you have excluded scenarios of an infectious disease, a fracture or hypocalcemia that requires immediate administration of calcium intravenously, here is the action plan to help your cow get back on track:

  1. Act fast. The more time the cow spends lying down (either on the side or with spread legs) the more nerve and muscle damage occurs due to pressure and lack of blood flow. Moreover, the animal might try to stand up on its own and break a leg, strain or dislocate a joint or cause further damage to muscles and nerves. Get the cow to stand up (often with the use of hip clamps, if the staff is trained to use them) and keep it standing for at least a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile prepare a pen with deep straw (avoiding any slippery floors), fresh water at all times and good quality feed. Keep the box deeply bedded and clean daily to avoid skin infections and reduce the risk of mastitis.
  3. Transport the cow to the box. See if the animal can stand on its own. If not, keep the animal standing for at least 15 minutes to allow normal blood flow to the hind legs. Then let the animal rest, but make sure that it stands for at least 15-30 minutes, 2-3 times per day.
  4. Administer NSAIDs right away to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. Give the animal an injection or oral supplement of vitamin E (most commonly in combination with selenium) to help nerve and muscle repair. If you re suspecting subclinical hypocalcemia, you can assist the cow by giving it a dose of calcium orally (bolus or fluid). Consider discussing with your veterinarian whether the cow should be given a vitamin B12 supplement as well, to ensure nervous system integrity.
  5. Look for any skin wounds, usually near the hoof. Such friction wounds are superficial and can occur during the cow’s attempts to stand up on a slippery floor. Treat the wounds with rinsing and spraying with an wound spray, to avoid infection.
  6. Place hobbles in the middle of the metatarsals, allowing about 40-50cm of distance between the legs) to keep the cow from further spreading her hind legs. Keep these on until the cow can move confidently.
  7. If the cow is going through her lactation period, don’t forget to milk her at her pen twice per day. Avoid moving the animal from its pen unless it’s obligatory.

It is important to keep checking the animal at least twice per day in order to assist it to stand up, evaluate progress, make sure it is feeding and drinking water sufficiently and that no disease has developed. Depending on the nerve and muscle damage, the cow’s symptoms should progressively improve, but it might take a few days or even a couple of weeks for the animal to fully recover.

A useful and more extensive reference article can be found at The Merck Online Veterinary Manual – Overview of Bovine Secondary Recumbency.

 

Cuddle lady strikes again

The post was written during my time at Vasen Gård, where I conducted the experiment for my Master’s thesis.

After sampling, I always pass by my completed calves (successful or not) and give them a scratch. Today, everyone was taking a nice nap at the time I finished testing, so I went and quietly cuddled the calves of the previous too weeks. It was until this fella got hold of the fact that I was there…

"She's back! Hey guys! Cuddling time!"
“She’s back! Hey guys! Cuddling time!”

…and excited everyone else in his row for the upcoming scratches:

"Aaaah, perfect after a nice nap".
“Aaaah, perfect after a nice nap”.

I adore them, I simply do. 🙂