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You're a lucky cow Wilhelmina!

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March 31, 2008

Shelby Reinstein with Wilhelmina before surgery
 Photo: Kansas State University

Shelby Reinstein with Wilhelmina before surgery Photo: Kansas State University

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April 1, 2008, It helps to have friends in high places, even when you’ve got four legs, as a Kansas dairy cow named Wilhelmina recently found out. The 8-year-old Jersey cow ruptured the cruciate ligament in her right knee in a breeding injury in December 2007. This injury is considered career-ending and often life-threatening for most cattle however this time luck was on Wilhelmina’s side. Thanks to her owner, she was about to receive a knee reconstruction.

On January 17 2008, Dr. Anderson, professor and head of agricultural practices at Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine replaced the cow’s cruciate ligament using synthetic material called monofilament nylon and dubbed the "Wildcat Power Cord".

The day after the operation Wilhelmina was walked across the hospital's video synchronization pressure mat to check the effectiveness of the operation and her level of lameness.

"Her stride length had increased 30 percent, and she bore 25 percent more weight on her operated leg," Anderson said. "To have that much improvement is spectacular."

This operation could prove groundbreaking given that the three surgical techniques for cruciate ligaments in large animals have until now had a failure rate of approximately 50 percent.

Wilhelmina is owned by Mike Frey, the son of Dr. Russ Frey, a prominent professor at Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine. "She's owned by the son of an important faculty member in our college's history," Anderson said. "It's wonderful that there is a connection to Dr. Frey with this case and that Mike understands the teaching value."

Mike Frey said he was happy to be part of an effort that could help animals, producers and students."I was always under the assumption that an animal with this problem was going to be heading down the road," he said. "If they could perfect this so that a cow could be kept in production, that would be worth quite a bit."

Anderson and his colleagues have been investigating cruciate ligament materials since the 1990s and he is currently working on a material strong enough to hold bulls. Laboratory tests have shown that the Wildcat Power Cord can withstand up to 12,000 newtons of pressure which is roughly 50 percent more than an adult bull requires. Shelby Reinstein, was one of the senior veterinary students who worked with the cow.

"We worked really hard for her and spent long hours at the hospital, but it was definitely worth it after seeing how well she did post-op," Reinstein said. "I love being part of the discovery aspect of veterinary medicine, and it is always really rewarding to try something you're not sure about and have it work. And, my parents were quite impressed that I could milk a cow!"

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