Penny the cow home after successful surgery at UF

Penny the cow with Dr. Jimenez and Carley Trcalek

Penny the cow is shown the morning of May 8 in the UF Large Animal Hospital’s food animal barn prior to surgery. At left is senior veterinary student Carley Trcalek and at right is Dr. Myriam Jimenez, a FARMS resident. (Photo by Sarah Carey)

By Sarah Carey

One of Gainesville’s most popular bovines, an 11-year-old Jersey cow named Penny, is back to eating apples and helping to educate children about farm life at Morningside Nature Center, thanks to surgery performed May 8 at the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital to remove a mass in her udder.

Penny is no stranger to UF veterinarians, who have seen her many times over the years due to her poor reproductive performance, said Myriam Jimenez, D.V.M. a resident with UF’s Food Animal Medicine Service.

“She’s never gotten pregnant,” said Jimenez. “About a year ago, she was treated for mastitis on her right rear quarter, probably due to biting flies. She received treatment, including a teat amputation, for her mastitis, but unfortunately the problem worsened into an abscess within her udder.”

Jimenez said UF veterinarians treated the abscess and tried to resolve Penny’s infection with a variety of treatments but were not successful.

Enter fourth-year veterinary student Carley Trcalek.

“Carley came to the FARMS service for her last month of clinical rotations and met Penny,” Jimenez said. “We were at the time discussing how we might proceed with an approach closer to surgery. Carley took it upon herself to take pictures, which she shared with Dr. (David) Freeman and UF’s large animal surgery team, as well as to our anesthesia team.”

Trcalek said she took an instant liking to Penny after first meeting her.

“She’s a very sweet cow with a lot of personality,” Trcalek said. “Another reason I became so involved was the staff at Morningside. They are so dedicated to Penny and that was really inspiring. Their dedication and Penny’s winning personality really motivated me to help her as much as I could.”

After meeting Penny and realizing surgery was being considered as a last resort, Trcalek consulted with various team members in surgery and anesthesia to get their opinions as to how well this option might work.

“I thought, we have access to the best of the best in these fields, why not take advantage,” Trcalek said. “From there, I just did what I typically did while on clinics – pestered the clinicians.”

The UF team came up with a solid surgical and anesthesia plan and a cost proposal, which was then proposed to Morningside staff. Morningside agreed to move forward and Penny was able to be scheduled for her much-needed surgery.

The procedure, which took about two hours, was conducted by Valeria Albanese, D.V.M., a UF large animal surgeon.

“Both the surgery and the anesthesia were fairly involved, and I am extremely grateful to the team that made this happen,” Trcalek said. “I felt like the whole thing was such an awesome collaborative effort between FARMS, surgery, anesthesia and Morningside. I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful team.”

Penny was able to go home May 10 and is now receiving antibiotic treatment, Jimenez said.

“She’s healing well,” Jimenez said. “She has a bit of expected swelling on her right leg due to the extension of the mass removal, but she is in good spirits and eating her apples as always. We expect a full recovery and are very optimistic about her future.”

In addition to being a beloved icon for visitors to the Living History Farm at Morningside, which is operated by the City of Gainesville, Penny is a valuable educational resource and an integral part of the center’s farm programs, said Bricky Way, Morningside’s recreation leader and farm manager.

“Today, many children or adults have little chance for interaction with the farm animals that were a daily part of our ancestors’ lives,” Way said.

From milk production to garden fertilizer, Morningside visitors learn through Penny how bovines were an indispensable part of a late 1800s Florida farm.

“We owe everyone on the UF veterinary team a huge debt of gratitude,” Way said.

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