BCI Gives Kansas State Fair Attendees Realistic Birthing Simulation Via Artificial Cow

The term “hands-on” has recently reached a whole new level at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute.

Dr. Dave Rethorst, BCI Director of Outreach, prepares a simulator cow and calf for exhibit at the Kansas State Fair.

Dr. Dave Rethorst, BCI Director of Outreach, prepares a simulator cow and calf for exhibit at the Kansas State Fair.

The center, housed at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, purchased a dystocia simulator cow and calf to help teach and demonstrate the birthing process. Visitors to the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson are already getting their own in-depth experience where the new simulator has been displayed to the public.

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.

Dr. 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 allowed children to identify the structures of the calf. The next step for children was to pull the calf with the straps. Youth anywhere from ages 4 to 20 lined up to try their hands at pulling a calf from the simulator cow while their parents and grandparents took photographs and video of 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.

Rethorst demonstrates how to pull a calf with assistance from fourth-year vet student Daina Iman, using a special cow and calf simulator purchased by the institute to teach veterinary students at the university.

Rethorst demonstrates how to pull a calf with assistance from fourth-year vet student Daina Iman, using a special cow and calf simulator purchased by the institute to teach veterinary students at the university.

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 the state, 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 and has been requested for use at a Kansas county fair next year.

Those interested in having the simulator for an event can contact Rethorst at drethorst@vet.k-state.edu.

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