Tag Archives: ethyl-cyanoacrylate

Cobwebs and superglue


I remember, many years ago, watching the vet treat a cow which was tied in a stall in the building next to the milking parlour. Because it was easy to separate a cow from her mates there, after she’d been milked, this was the stall we used for cows the vet needed to see. It was light and easily pressure-hosed off so was always clean.

The vet looked up at the ceiling. To be fair we’d been wary of pressure hosing that, if only because the roof was a fair age and we didn’t fancy taking the risk of loosening the slates. The vet surveyed the thick cobwebs with some enthusiasm. “Always handy to have some of them about if you have a bad cut to treat.”
It’s actually a very old technique. Wash the wound with honey and vinegar, than gently pat it dry with a clean cloth, put a thick pad of cobweb over it, and then put a bandage round to hold the pad in place. Apparently, not only is there the physical effect of the fine mesh of spider silk, but also cobwebs contain vitamin K which helps clotting.

Obviously mindless bureaucracy has to impinge on these things and the advent of the dairy inspectorate with clipboards and boxes to tick meant that eventually the cobwebs disappeared.

But I suppose we’ve moved on. Step forward and take a bow, Superglue or ethyl-cyanoacrylate. Apparently in the US, midwives had been using it to “suture” perineal tears after birth. In their experience it was better and less invasive than stitches. Apparently for larger wounds it’s not flexible enough and science stepped forward with Butyl-cyanoacrylate which was used in Vietnam by battlefield medics who didn’t have time or the facilities to stitch wounds in the field. Vets and others who work in similar conditions use it. Indeed it is often used in A&E departments where patients have cuts, especially in ‘non-fleshy’ places, like eyebrows or foreheads.

But now if you have an animal with a bit of a cut you can sent a photo of it on your phone to the vet who’ll look at it and decide whether it’s one that needs stitching, or whether you can just treat it with a little superglue.

Certainly it has to be admitted that it’s a lot easier to apply superglue than to stitch a wound. Especially on dairy cows who’re used to being handled, I saw a cow with a cut in the side of her nose just stand there when superglue was used to seal the cut. She just stood there and let it happen without so much as shaking her head. If we’d tried to stitch her, even using local anaesthetic there’d have been two of us trying to hold her head still enough to give the vet a chance to work.

Given that Poundland sold eight tubes for a pound, that’s £0.12p. Not only that but the vet can cast an eye over the before and after without leaving his fireside by casting an eye over the pictures on his phone.

I must admit I’ve never used the cobwebs, but I’d vouch for the efficacy of honey smeared on a cut. Not only that but it doesn’t have to be the highly expensive Manuka. Supermarket ‘produce of more than one continent’ works perfectly adequately for me.


There again, what do I know? Ask the expert.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”