By Baxter Black, DVM
“Maybe,” is an acceptable diagnosis in some places but it doesn’t impress the owner of the cow. “Not feeling anything,” is not a diagnosis. Concept #1 in the cow vet’s Principles of Preg Testing is understanding that “Open” is not the absence of something; it is the presence of nothing.
It isn’t that you didn’t feel something, it is that you felt, but felt nothing. Am I mincing words, or nit picking?
I don’t think so. When you ask a surgeon if he got all the cancer, he might answer that they got all of it they could see. What he means is “Maybe.” “Maybe” is acceptable in cancer surgery. However it is not acceptable when castrating colts. “Did you get both testicles?” Yes. They are on the hood of your car.
Being ‘almost right’ is acceptable in many things in our lives. “Is there any gas in truck? Did you clean up the tack room? Did you pick up your toys?” Other times the question requires more specificity; “Did you lock the car? Do know where your little brother is? I thought you bought the tickets?”
I have always wondered why I had to take two 4-hour semesters of Physics to get in to Vet School? Maybe this is an opportunity to use what I learned. Science has theorized over the century that Black Holes in space have gravity so strong even light rays cannot escape its pull. So when scientists are trying to find a Black Hole in outer space, they are looking at the sky for the presence of nothing. If they found something it would not be nothing, thus it would not be a Black Hole because a Black Hole is nothing.
Let me put it this way, people might think of a hole as something real. But a hole is nothing. A hole does not exist. You cannot hold a hole in your hand. If you poke a hole in a piece of paper, all you really have is a piece of paper. So if you are looking for a hole, you are looking for nothing. If you find something, then nothing is not present.
Which takes us back to the importance of detecting “the presence of nothing vs the absence of something” when preg checking a cow. To classify a cow as pregnant one must find the presence of something that indicates the condition; a prominent Copus Luteum, a cotyledon, a slipping of membranes, asymmetrical uterine horns and/or a palpable fetus. But to classify the cow as open one must find the presence of nothing by a thorough search. Then if you find nothing, something is not there.
I hope I have cleared this up for some of you future theriogenologists. It is consistent with Concept #2 of the Principles of Preg Testing which reads; Regardless of your professional opinion, a female of the species “MIGHT” be pregnant but she is never “ALMOST” pregnant.”