Erin Stein, June 17, 2014, Bristol, England

We had an incredibly exciting day today.  We met our new rotation partners:  the new group from RVC which also included a secondary school student who came in for career shadowing.  I have not had a chance to learn more, but the RVC group includes an American!

It was a very full day that included a large number of sheep and four steers.  Most of the sheep were Jacobs.  I really like this breed.  They are a nice dual purpose breed for both wool and meet, but they are also very aesthetically pleasing with their black and white spots.  Most of the sheep were fairly healthy on the ante mortem inspection.  However, there were two interesting cases.  One was a sheep that was lame on his back left leg.  The owner said that he had been like that since birth which is probably true.  However, the hoof was shriveled.  He tried to compensate on the other leg, but the other leg was also going lame to the point of bending outwards at the stifle.  It was a difficult case that we discussed at length.  Should the owner have let the sheep grow to this age (over a year), or should he have euthanized at birth?  There is no easy answer.  If it were me, I would likely have said that this animal is not fit for transport and would have euthanized on the farm.  While the legislation only says that the animal has to be able to walk in pain free, I would argue that this animal was clearly in pain.  He could not put weight on his left hind leg, and his right hind leg was on the quick route to lameness.  Unfortunately, the abattoir’s hands were tied.  The owner only verbally told the OV that the animal was lame.  He did not write it on the transport papers.  Therefore, it would become his word against hers if he were to be taken to court.  After slaughter, we looked at the limbs in question.  The hoof of the left hind leg was shriveled and the claws were overgrown, but one could not definitively say that the animal was lame by just looking at the limb.  If the abattoir were to pursue it, the limb would have to be sent in for full analysis of the joints to check for signs of arthritis and other pathology.

The other interesting case was a ram of some sort of mixed lineage.  He had nice fluffy wool on his back and then some sort of ringlet wool around his neck and head which made it look as though he had a mane.  We dubbed him Simba, because on top of that, he had a very hoarse call which sounded sort of like a roar.  He had hemorrhagic discharge from his left nostril.  After slaughter, we looked at his lungs.  He had M. capillaris, but he also had extensive pneumonia.  His mediastinal lymph nodes were also very swollen and hemorrhagic.  In the end, his lungs were rejected for the above reasons.

We went through the carcasses as we did yesterday by looking at the organs (the cattle demonstrated some nice liver flukes, and the sheep demonstrated some nice Cystercercus tenuicollis and M. capillaris).  We also discovered why one of the groups of Jacobs rams (all intact) had not been kept for breeding:  they all had significant underbites.  One of the Jacobs rams had four horns which gave him an odd appearance, especially since none of the horns were growing in the proper direction.  The most exciting moment of the day came when the final steer was herded into the stun box.  The massive Hereford steer went absolutely crazy when the guillotine door slid shut behind him.  He tried to climb out of the stun box (the stun box walls are roughly 7-8 feet tall) and almost made it at one point which was rather nerve-wracking especially considering that he probably weighed well over 1200 pounds.  The point where he almost went over the side was when they had all of the students leave the room, and not just leave.  We were told to run!  They were able to captive bolt him shortly after all of the students were safely out, and the rest of the day was much less exciting.

As our final exercises, we received instruction on the captive bolt gun, and each of us was able to shoot the captive bolt at the already processed steer heads.  We also discussed the cuts of meat on the bovine carcasses.  One of my favorite quips of all time came from one of the RVC students.  When Dr. van Klink pointed out the Nuchal Ligament and said that it is known in the butcher world as the “Paddywack,” the student just said, “Is that what Irish policemen used to use when they arrested people?”  The Nuchal Ligament is actually hardly used anymore except for dogs to chew on, etc.

After we were done, Pia invited me to go into Yatton with her and some of her friends.  Yatton is a cute little village just by Langford.  It is slightly bigger than Langford which is probably due to the presence of the rail station in Yatton.  Pia introduced me to the charity shops in Yatton which are almost fashion boutiques especially compared to what we have in the US.  The one that we spent the longest time in was run by the SPCA.

After the shopping, I met up with Dr. van Klink for another lecture.  This time, we discussed HACCP.  HACCP is another form of hazard analysis.  It includes risk analysis but it is not the same thing.  HACCP was actually developed through partnership of Pillsbury and NASA in order to prevent any sort of food borne illnesses and their subsequent, disastrous effects in space.  It is a multi-step diagram that maps out every step of the process.  While not the most thrilling of topics, HACCP is nonetheless a vital aspect of risk reduction and protection of the food change.  It is a legally binding document, and producers and everyone else are expected to follow every detail of the plan.  I also found interesting that laws have dictated that at every level, people are legally responsible for the safety of the food to that point.  It seems as though it would be obvious, but with that change in the legal terminology, it makes protection of the food chain more cohesive.