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The OSU Palpation Team. Pictured (left to right): third-year students Matthew Hammer, Cooper Hicks, Ciara Smith, Madyson Werner and Justin Irgens

OSU CVM team places in top five at national competition

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Media Contact: Kaylie Wehr | Coordinator, Marketing and Public Relations | 405-744-6740 |

The Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Production Animal Medicine Society recently sent a team to compete in the 2023 bovine palpation contest — bovine palpation is the means of determining pregnancy.

The contest was held on March 18 as part of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association Symposium, which was hosted by the University of Illinois in Champaign.

The contest consists of three stages: a written test, a lab practical and a live cow palpation. The written examination can be about any subject in the realm of bovine theriogenology — the top 10 highest scoring teams advance to the second stage.

The laboratory practical examination includes instrument identification, aging fetuses in reproduction tracts, evaluating semen sample slides, pharmacology, embryology and pathological lesion identification. The top five highest scoring teams from this stage go on to the third and final stage where the teams are given five dairy cows to palpate.

To palpate the cows, students assess the reproductive tracts of each cow and decide whether the cow is open (non-pregnant) or bred (pregnant). If the cow is bred, students must then determine how far along the pregnancy is. If not, they determine if she is fresh (recently calved) or involuted (uterus returned to normal size after calving). Students must also identify any significant structures on the ovaries.

“This year’s team was able to secure a fourth place finish,” said Ciara Smith, a palpation team member. “The competition was tough and we are very proud of our work!”

The palpation team is comprised of about 25 first-third year students, five of which are selected to participate in the national competition. The team's motto is “No fetus can beat us!”

“With the generous support from OSU CVM faculty and proud alumni, OSU has been able to send a team to compete in the bovine palpation competition every year since 2013,” Smith said.

This year’s team began preparing in September 2022 by meeting regularly for self-study sessions, hands on wet labs, theory-based lessons and palpating at local sale barns and dairies. The five students who were selected to compete were third-year students Matthew Hammer, Cooper Hicks, Ciara Smith, Madyson Werner and Justin Irgens.

“We are proud of the dedication and hard work of these students,” said Dr. Lionel Dawson, professor and small ruminant and swine specialist at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “They did a wonderful job representing our university on a national level.”

Those third-year students also participated in the bovine theriogenology elective taught by Dawson. This elective is offered to a select number of students in their third year. The students were selected after having active participation in palpation labs and passing a written examination.

To support the OSU CVM Palpation Team by donating, please contact Lionel Dawson at or Dorothy Scarborough at

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