“Cow No. 231, possible early pregnancy,” Dr. Bronwyn Crane calls out to Professor Charles Estill, who stands by with a clipboard to record the reproductive status of the Van Beek Dairy herd. Crane moves along the row of Holstein hindquarters, doing “preg” tests with practiced efficiency — lifting tails, feeling for signs of new life, calling out findings. “Cow No. 56, NSS right, CL2 left, day seven to 17,” Crane says. (Loose translation: not pregnant, midway through the estrous cycle.)
Even with gee-whiz technologies like portable ultrasound, Estill says, “the arm is still the fastest and cheapest” way to gauge pregnancy in cows.
Crane’s ease and confidence as she tends the giant bovines belies her age of 27. That’s because she was born to the profession — literally. As she explains with a slight shrug, “It’s genetic.” She was still wearing preschool-sized Oshkosh overalls when she started accompanying her veterinarian father on his rounds on Prince Edward Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. One of her earliest memories is sitting on her dad’s medical case at age five, watching him treat a uterine prolapse. “It was very dramatic looking-like a big, pink balloon,” she says. “I remember my dad swearing for the first time.”
After completing her DVM at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Atlantic Veterinary College in 2002, she came to OSU for her two-year residency. Having done her master’s thesis on the topic, “ovarian cysts in dairy cows,” Crane is clearly headed down the path her father set her on, back when her rubber boots were many sizes smaller than they are today.
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