A Pembrokeshire cow is believed to be the first in Europe and one of the first in the world to receive a life-saving surgery for a common ailment. And it’s a surgery that could revolutionise the field of farm animal veterinary intervention.
Tyddewi Beatrice who’s also known as ‘Big B’ has been described by her owners as “the most wonderful, beautiful, charismatic cow that you could ever meet.”
But back in January, she fell and damaged her leg.
It was hoped she would recover with rest. But as the weeks went on and she didn’t improve, owners Sarah and Andy grew increasingly concerned.
After getting an x-ray their worst fears were confirmed - Beatrice had ruptured the cranial cruciate ligaments in her right knee and they were advised to put her down.
“We just felt gutted”, said Sarah Beynon.
She added: “It was like being told a family member is not going to be with you any longer. It’s a really horrible process.”
But when the vet report came through, it gave Sarah some hope.
She said: “When Richard's report came through, there was also a little paragraph that said there are two potential operations that in theory could be done to an injury like this but it’s never been done here before and the expertise isn’t really available.”
But this didn’t stop Sarah and after a lot of research, she decided to go ahead with the operation, which had a 43% success rate.
After getting help from a team of local and international vets, Big B survived the operation and is now back on her feet.
The man who performed that pioneering surgery was local equine vet Richard Coomer.
“I’ve never done that surgery before”, he said.
“Initially I was very reluctant and hoped that I would find a more bovine specialist in the United Kingdom and that very quickly came to a nought so I thought I’d ask some contacts around Europe.
“But bit by bit the answers came back as ‘no, we wouldn’t do that surgery, she’s too heavy, we’d put her to sleep.’ Professionally I’ve always been the sort of person who if people tell me ‘you can’t do that’ there’s a little bit of me that rebels and says do you know what, maybe we can.
“The surgery went as well as we could hope and quite amazingly she walked out of the recovery room more comfortable than she walked in.”
Local vet Alex Cooper, who has known Beatrice for over 10 years, is hoping operations like this one could save a lot of lives in the future.
He said: “I’m really excited that we've had the opportunity to do the surgery and it means that everyone’s got the skills now to diagnose these cases again in the future and know that there’s something we can do with them (cows).
“We’ve now got an experienced surgeon who’s done the operation we can contact again and we know how likely she (a cow) is likely to respond in the future. It’s been a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved.”
Sarah is now hoping that Beatrice’ story will inspire others.
“If B can be that pinnacle that means that we can look at how possible it is to intervene in injuries that otherwise were catastrophic then that to me is just incredible and I’m so proud of her to be hopefully the animal that will move on that side of veterinary medicine.”
Beatrice is now in the recovery process and is going to have to be in a pen for the next six to eight months but owners Sarah and Andy can’t wait for the day where she “can be a cow again”.
“I’m working towards that day where we see B back out in a wildflower meadow, pottering around through the flowers with her friends, being able to be a cow again. That’s why we’re doing all of this.
“We’ll need to put things in place for her whole life to make sure that she doesn’t overdo it but we’re willing to do that because she’s B and she’s amazing.”
Big B has a long road ahead of her but for now she’s enjoying all the attention and milking every second of it.
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