Understanding the Role of PORTABLE ULTRASOUND in Dairy Animal Health

Published on Tue, 05/24/2016 - 2:31pm

The health and well-being of a dairy herd is paramount, but when an animal becomes sick, it is not always easy to tell what is causing the illness. Just ask Terri Ollivett, DVM, assistant professor in food animal production medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Medical Sciences.

For nearly seven years, Ollivett has been using E.I Medical Imaging’s leading-edge Ibex ultrasound technology when working with dairy cattle.

Ollivett’s research interests focus on dairy cattle health and management. Currently working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ollivett earned her veterinary medical degree from Cornell University.

After graduation, she worked as a large animal veterinarian in New York before completing a three-year large animal internal medicine residency at Cornell University. It was there that she began using E.I. Medical Imaging’s ultrasound products. Most recently, she earned her doctorate in epidemiology at the University of Guelph in Canada.

While at Cornell doing her residency, Ollivett worked with many animals that had pneumonia, in the hospital setting. “We had ultrasound equipment in the hospital which we used to assess our patients and determine the source of the illness,” Ollivett says.

“One particular calf had been referred to Cornell because of a fever of an unknown origin. After the physical exam was performed, we turned to ultrasound to see if we could see internally the source of the fever.” After ultrasounding its lungs, Ollivett learned that this particular calf had severe pneumonia.

“It made me wonder how many calves out on dairy farms have lungs that look like this but don’t have any telltale signs of pneumonia,” Ollivett says. So Ollivett began a pilot project attempting to answer that question, looking at calves at various farms to determine the likelihood that portable ultrasounds, such as Ibex Portable Ultrasound systems, can be used to identify the lung lesions associated with pneumonia.

“When we were looking at an ultrasound to purchase for this pilot project, we examined several machines but opted for the Ibex Pro from E.I. Medical because of the screen and image quality,” Ollivett says. “Eventually I went on to get my PhD in epidemiology where my thesis focused on using ultrasound to diagnose pneumonia in dairy calves.

”I continued using the E.I Medical Imaging product because it worked well, offered great imaging, the cost was affordable, and it was a piece of equipment that many bovine practitioners have already. I typically use the Ibex Pro for research but often teach students and veterinarians to ultrasound using both the Pro and the Lite.” At UW-Madison, Ollivett is using lung ultrasonography to provide lung ultrasound “scores” that illustrate the level of pneumonia a calf may have.

For example, lung ultrasound scores of 0–1 are considered normal; a score of 2 indicates the presence of a lobular, or patchy, pneumonia; and a score of 3–5 is indicative of a more severe lobar pneumonia. Originally from New York, Ollivett continues to work with dairy cattle, combining individual animal and herd health approaches to managing disease.

Having worked with the Ibex Pro ultrasound technology for more than seven years, Ollivett has developed a keen understanding of the important role ultrasounds can play in calf and fresh cow health, especially in a non-hospital setting. Rugged and durable, the Ibex family of ultrasound systems offers the portability and accessibility veterinarians and livestock producers need when working with dairy cows.

Since 1984 E.I. Medical Imaging has been continually developing state-of-the-art, real-time ultrasound technology to serve veterinarians and livestock producers throughout the world. As Ollivett explains, any ultrasound equipment that can be used to diagnose pregnancy in a cow can also be used to diagnose pneumonia in a calf. “In addition to pneumonia, on-farm ultrasound can help diagnose or at least assess, a variety of non-reproductive conditions including extra fluid in the abdomen or chest, naval infections, abscesses in the skin or even injection site reactions. The images help understand what may be going on for an individual animal, and perhaps more importantly, for the whole herd.

This is especially true when ultrasound is used on a regular basis for monitoring respiratory disease levels,” Ollivett says. E.I. Medical Imaging’s Ibex portable ultrasounds are lightweight and offer an all-digital image to help identify illnesses or ailments in dairy cattle. The durable, industrial grade probe connectors are ideal when working with large animals. In addition to providing a variety of ultrasound products, E.I Medical Imaging acts as a solid resource for dairy farmers, other livestock producers and veterinarians.

Not only does the company provide leading-edge ultrasound technology products, E.I. Medical Imaging offers a wealth of training and education for the industry. Through ongoing research and development, E.I. Medical Imaging further enhances the role ultrasonography plays in the dairy farm environment, for reproduction and health maintenance of a herd.

And while Ollivett primarily uses the Ibex Pro to monitor the lung health of young calves and fresh cows, the Ibex ultrasound technology is most often used for breeding purposes within the livestock industry. The portable bovine ultrasound system can easily provide veterinarians and farm staff with an efficient and streamlined means of diagnosing pregnancy. The resulting high-quality ultrasound images can also detect any reproductive abnormalities, twinning, and the health of a cow’s ovarian structures.

In fact, according to a University of Wisconsin study, the use of ultrasound on a dairy farm can save 10 to 15 open, non-productive days per cow each year versus palpation. Of course, portability is key with the bovine ultrasound system, allowing veterinarians and farmers the ability to use the equipment in the middle of a feedlot, or out in the field, if necessary. Saving time, money, and improving the efficiency of a dairy operation is paramount in the ever-evolving dairy industry.