Good post-operative care on the farm

June 13, 2022

Following a recent seminar on farm animal surgery, Alex Roberts gives us some key factors to achieve a speedy recovery:

Operations on farm animals are commonplace; from caesareans to enucleations (eye removal). As with any procedure, complications can arise. Good post-operative care is key to welfare and vital to ensure the animal continues it’s productive life.

With good stockman ship, husbandry and communication with the operating vet, many complications after surgery can be avoided. Here’s what to watch out for:

Pain and discomfort:

  • Decreased movement/altered locomotion
  • Decreased interaction with other animals
  • Reduced feed intake (hollow left flank due to poor rumen fill)
  • Tooth grinding
  • Dull/poor coat condition
  • Reduced mental activity & responsiveness
  • Animals post-op MUST have clean, dry, comfortable bedding that is grippy under foot.

Wound complications:

  • Swelling/redness
  • Heat
  • Abnormal discharge


  • Poor feed intakes – Most likely related to pain

Access to feed

  • Bullying
  • Animals post-op MUST have access to good quality forage at all times.


  • Can be related to pain
  • Poor access to water
  • Signs include poor skin tenting, sunken/hollow eyes, tacky mucous membranes (gums)
  • Correction of hydration can be achieved by stomach tube. This is an extremely useful tool for farmer & vet.

Medication compliance:

  • Most animals will be placed on a course of antibiotics. Due to the nature of surgery on farm, it is never completely sterile. As a result, infections are a risk.
  • It is important to completely finish any course of medication. Sometimes an extended course may be needed.

Communication with the vet is important if you notice any of the above signs. Early detection results in faster treatment and faster recovery.


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