A different kind of cow-calf pair resides at the Kansas State University Beef Cattle Institute, housed at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.
It's a dystocia simulator cow and calf, used to help teach and demonstrate the birthing process. Developed by Veterinary Simulator Industries and the University of Calgary in Calgary, Canada, the equipment was purchased with the initial goal to create a simulation lab for teaching students working toward their veterinary degrees.
But once purchased, it was quickly realized that the simulator could be a valuable addition to the Birthing Center at the Kansas State Fair, which concluded earlier this month.
Dave Rethorst, director of outreach for the Beef Cattle Institute, coordinated the first demonstrations of the simulator cow, nicknamed Bossy, and her calf for the state fair.
"At the fair it wasn't so much as to give a demonstration as it was to let youth have an opportunity to pull a calf," Rethorst said.
At the fair exhibit, Rethorst and a group of Kansas State University veterinary students have allowed children to identify the structures of the calf. The next step is for children to pull the calf with the straps. Youth anywhere from ages 4 to 20 have lined up to try their hands at pulling a calf from the simulator cow while their parents and grandparents take photographs and video the experience.
"All you had to do was ask the first kid passing by if they wanted to pull a calf, and the line grew from there. I never had to ask the rest of the day," Rethorst said.
Modeled as a Hereford pair, both the cow and calf are built with realistic characteristics, including size and structure. The cow stands approximately 53.5 inches at the shoulder, 96 inches in length and 31 inches at the widest point.
Standing on a recycled plastic base, the cow is constructed of steel reinforced epoxy/fiberglass with water resistant components. The simulator features an adjustable pneumatic uterine, calf support system and pump, and a functional udder with a milk tank.
Bossy pulls out all the stops to provide the most authentic experience as possible. The calf is built of similar materials, but less structured to imitate a newborn calf.
To set up the simulator for demonstration, the cow has a removable top section between the shoulders and hooks, which opens to a hollow cavity with a clear, vinyl uterine bag in which the simulator calf can be placed. The demonstrator can decide how to place the calf to simulate different birthing scenarios for students. A soft, but durable perineum panel is built into the backside of the cow to allow for flexibility during the process.
Following the debut at the Kansas State Fair, the simulator will be attending multiple education events across Kansas, including Ag in the Classroom and joint 4-H/FFA meetings.
It also will be a feature in each of the upcoming Beef Quality Assurance Regional Training meetings this fall.