Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Research

This summer I have been helping one of the professors at State with her research project. She has been looking at how feeding heifers whole cottonseed may or may not effect the age they reach puberty. My job in this project is to take blood samples from the heifers every 10 days and then analyze those samples for the amount of progesterone they contain. When a heifer begins cycling and reaches puberty, progesterone levels increase. You might recognize progesterone as the hormone that maintains pregnancy in humans and animals. Progesterone also plays a key role in the estrous cycle of the heifer. Along with collecting a blood sample, we record the heifers weight to see if they are gaining weight during each 10 day interval.  We also look at the overall health of the heifer by checking her eyes and watching her as she exits the chute to make sure she is healthy. A chute is used when collecting blood samples to make sure the heifer and the person collecting the blood is safe. It also gives us a chance to get a good look at the heifer up close and make sure she is in tip top condition.
Collecting blood from a heifer is just like a person going to the doctor and having blood drawn. We collect the blood in a sterile tube, that is kept cold until we get the sample back to the lab for analysis.
Blood collection in cattle is used for more than just research. There are now pregnancy tests available for cattle where the producer can take a blood sample from the tail vein, just like Katie and I did, and send the sample into a lab. They analyze the sample for a protein, Pregnancy Specific Protein B, and if the protein is detected the cow is considered pregnant! This is a great option for producers who may not have access to a veterinarian for the cattle to be tested for pregnancy by ultrasound or palpation.
Here are some photos that were taken the past week -

Our patient. The heifers are very calm in the chute and usually will wait patiently until we are done. While we are collecting the blood sample, the guys will look her over to make sure she is in good health.

Katie collecting a blood sample from a vein that runs on the bottom side of the cows tail.

The blood entering the tube. This is usually a very fast process.

We record the weight of the heifer.

Katie and I, the blood collecting team. It's a dirty job by the time we get through with all the heifers. I have never been very good at staying clean! Maybe Mike Rowe could come out and do a show? 

A blood collection day is never complete without Shipley Donuts for our morning snack! 

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