What kind of parlor do you use for a moose? Peder Cuneo, DVM, MS at a Russian
moose dairy.

Peder Cuneo, DVM, MS, Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Tucson, Ariz., participated last year in the Farmer-to-Farmer program through ACDI VOCA. There was a specific need for veterinarians who had some dairy experience. Russia had asked for veterinary assistance in herd health, reproduction and surgery. 

 Cuneo put together a portable vet pack that fit into a hard plastic tool box that was  lockable and wheeled. In Kostroma, he spent the first week at a dairy that was operated as a collective, with the attending vet who had been a student of his interpreter. “They had about 300 local crossbred cows on 2x milking,” he says. “The cows are kept indoors all winter and pasture in summer.” The primary problems were nutritional; they are unable to provide high quality forage and very little grain, so there were a lot of transitional health problems. “All the breeding was done by the bull but we were able to start a reproductive management program using fresh-cow checks and prostaglandins at about 65 days post-calving.” 

Labor issues
On both dairies there was a tremendous amount of hand labor. On the first dairy most of the cows were milked by hand. “But the cattle were well taken care of and everybody I met really cared about the animals and producing quality milk,” says Cuneo. “On both farms the first questions I was asked was how much milk do cows in Arizona produce and what are milk prices! Also, managers on both farms complained about how hard it was to find and keep good people.” The primary interest on the first farm was to develop some surgical experience. “We did several hernia repairs  and the attending vet was a quick learner. I left him a full surgery kit, clippers and bag of OB sleeves. He had been doing all the repro work bare-armed.”

Peder Cuneo, DVM, MS, demonstrates surgery techniques on a Russian dairy.

The second dairy was owned by a single individual. The attending veterinarian had been there for several years and knew each cow and its full history (milking about 400 head). The major problem was down, weak cows post-calving, but this area of Russia does not produce high quality hay so feeding cows is a problem. “The owner of this dairy was planning to expand to 4,000 cows and use imported Holsteins; we tried to stress the need for improved nutrition before expecting to improve production.” Cuneo also had a chance to tour a moose dairy. “They milk about 25 moose and use the milk to treat people with gastric ulcers,” he says.

“All in all it was a great experience and I hope to do more projects like this in the future,” says Cuneo. “I guess the one thing I really came to understand that farmers/ranchers are much the same the world over, they are wonderful people who really care about their animals.”

Have you had an interesting experience in the last year involving international or domestic travel where you have interacted with and helped other bovine veterinarians or livestock producers? Are you a veterinary student who has had a unique bovine-related international externship? If so, e-mail  a description of your adventure and a photo or two to gwren@food360.com and we’ll put you on the BovineVetOnline.com Web site.