this (re­pro­duc­tive) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Les­ley Horn

Uterus stood in the pad­dock graz­ing con­tent­edly while her new­born calf lay nearby. This was surely a mir­a­cle.

Eigh­teen months ear­lier, my hus­band Andy — fish­er­man and bush block dweller — had been driv­ing home when he no­ticed one of the cows from the neigh­bour­ing prop­erty, which had re­cently calved, with a large mass pro­trud­ing from her rear end.

About a week later the farmer was driv­ing a mob of cat­tle along the road. Andy saw the same cow with the prob­lem­atic rear end, which was now a nasty, red­dish brown, sun­burnt, scaly mass and he knew some­thing was very wrong.

On closer in­spec­tion, he re­alised the cow had suf­fered a pro­lapse and the mass was, in fact, her in­verted uterus.

Andy spoke to the farmer, sug­gest­ing some­thing should be done.

The fel­low ap­peared un­con­cerned and said he would prob­a­bly sim­ply cut it off. Andy ad­vised him not to do that as the cow would most cer­tainly bleed to death.

The pre­vi­ous year we had watched an episode of the Bri­tish tele­vi­sion show All Crea­tures Great and Small, in which the pro­gram’s pro­tag­o­nist vet had at­tended to a sim­i­lar prob­lem.

Armed with this knowl­edge, Andy was con­fi­dent he could put the uterus back into place. He rang the farmer, who agreed to let him try.

Andy put the cow into a bale and with hot water, an­ti­sep­tic, a cake of Solyp­tol soap, vase­line and a beer bot­tle was ready to com­mence the task at hand.

He gen­tly washed the uterus, tak­ing the ut­most care, as he re­moved dirt, scabs and rot­ting tis­sue.

The an­i­mal stood qui­etly as if she knew he was only there to help. He then lu­bri­cated the ex­posed uterus with vase­line and with both hands pro­ceeded to ma­noeu­vre the mass as he pushed the uterus back in­side the cow, which seemed to as­sist by push­ing back against him.

He knew that even with his arm fully ex­tended in­side the cow, the uterus would need to be pushed even fur­ther.

He with­drew his arm and used the base of a beer bot­tle to help ease the or­gan back into the an­i­mal, which con­tin­ued to push back against him. To com­plete the pro­ce­dure he in­serted Solyp­tol soap as a means of ster­il­i­sa­tion.

Uterus, so named there­after by the farmer’s wife, went on to have sev­eral more calves, with­out any fur­ther prob­lems.

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