Put your wellies on

I often recognise that animals provide us with the key to unlock our front door on the days the all-consuming demoralising cloud of depression would leave us feeling trapped. Our four-legged companions can remove the barrier of fog in our minds, and lead us to the great outdoors.
Animals are my therapy.

Many of the benefits of animal therapy stem from the healing powers of being outside.

The outdoors are also my therapy.

So, what do I gain from the outdoors?

1. GRATITUDE

I cannot measure the profound feeling I experience when hiking in the Swiss mountains. Instead of attempting to quantify my success and productivity, I wholeheartedly appreciate the little things in life when enchanted by nature. The things that are free of charge from sunrise to sunrise. 

We are surrounded by it, and is not a fleeting time period of our life. It’s an escape, a refuge, a safe haven. Imagine nature as the secure foundation of our lives, strip back everything else, and you can continue to experience gratitude for being alive.

2. MINDFULNESS

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When the extra things in life can feel overwhelming, the basic foundations of nature ground us. You can simply “be”, surrounded by sights that make you grateful for the life you live. Stop and be captivated, there is no experience likewise. 

Mindfulness involves the other 4 senses too. Allow yourself to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the natural environments without judgement.

Slow down. Switch off of your inner critic. Sense the wonders of life.

3. STRESS RELIEF

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Nature provides an easy escape from the academic rat race. The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever.

The outdoors offer a chance to gain practical skills, to add another string to your bow whilst learning outdoors. Sequentially, this reduces the stake and mental intensity of textbook learning. 

4. EXPLORATION

Whilst others are being sheep, be the goat that takes the mountain sides.

Whether the outdoor offers you increased spontaneity is in the form of taking your muddy dog on a new route, or hiking in the sweltering heat abroad, always be a goat.

It is easy to be tempted to go off track, to explore new areas, to meet new people. 

Why is the outdoors therapy to you?

Moat Goats, 28.12.17-2.1.18

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

My final chapter of 2017 was spent in New Moat, Wales. 200 goats, 2 dogs, and a wonderful crazy goat family with a new arrival.

You can read my detailed daily blogs of kidding here.

I returned for a week in July before seeing local large animal practice then flying to Finland.

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A dream


Seeing the new year in with Fred was a dream!

Rather than intensely research the handful of ailments I saw to, like my other Moat Goat blogs, I wanted to share a few of my happiest moments during my stay and an insight into staying away for work experience.

The first time I stayed away from home was in February. I was seeing practice in the Lake District and certainly did not anticipate the challenge of breaking out of the hotel reception at 4.30am. Backpack strategically placed, I frantically jumped up using the tip of my fingers to budge the top bolt of the grand entrance door.

Due to the long hours of lambing, I stayed just over an hour away so I could be out on the quad at 6am. I vividly remember being outside in the pet lamb pen until 11pm due to the viscous colostrum and lamb-sized diameter stomach tube.

That brings me to kidding time at Moat Goats, I instantly felt at home. Hot chocolates and murder documentaries in the midst of 2am kiddings and bottle baby care. I was eager to return before heading off to Finland!

6 weeks in Finland… life changing.

Feeling oh-so-professional taking trains down to Somerset to have a good nights sleep in my luxury king sized bed, I enjoyed my first goat conference.

I believe that brings me to my most recent trip. The quote “always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan” is appropriate.

Coffee coffee coffee

After the final stretch of my journey being majorly postponed due to a cancelled train, I sipped my Starbucks latte and bitterly wondered why I had been up since 3.30am. A switch flicked and I appreciated the warmth, my coffee, the fact that I would get there in the end and that no transport system is perfect. Everything and everyone has flaws.

It was that moment that I heard the announcement for a postponed train direct to my final destination. If I ran to the platform I would make it. I would then arrive at the farm earlier than scheduled with my original plan.

Nothing in life is free, and I forked out £65.00 on this 4 hour train. It was my third and final train, it was the best option because time with the goats is priceless.

Shout out to Costa and Starbucks.

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There is no smell like foot rot


Following my recent vet practice posts, I will start with the health aspect of working on a goat farm.

Boer goats are renowned in the goaty world for their poorly adapted hooves for the weather in the UK. We caught some of the does to trim their hooves. If only goats saw trimming as a pain-relieving manicure to solve all of their hoof troubles! One goat head-butted my head torch into my nose, sadly I cannot speak goat to explain that I am trying to assist her. Cuddles and food help.

Successfully nursing and treating two goats with Listeriosis was hugely rewarding. Listeria monocytogenes cross the blood-brain barrier and often cause encephalitis. Therefore one of the major symptoms was head pressing, which is disturbing to see along with the body spasms and foaming of the mouth. Every animal deserves a chance, and this is why I keep coming back to work on the farm. One goat’s severe neurological symptoms subsided with the antibiotic treatment. Over the course of a few days I saw her partly paralysed to trotting around like a healthy happy doe. 10pm ventures to the shed to inject a bucking goat will be memorable.

On my first day, I noticed a doeling with a clouded eye. I assumed that she had peculiarly developed partial blindness, perhaps due to a fight or accident as goats can always find trouble.

This was an unknown eye problem so we rushed her to the vets. The vet used a fluorescent diagnostic dye to identify areas of trauma to the cornea. Ulcerative keratitis is the veterinary term for a corneal ulcer. He then used an eye drop that contained a local anaesthetic before gently rubbing the eyeball to encourage neovascularisation. I held the doeling still whilst the vet skilfully injected antibiotics into the eyelid.

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All of these goats are recovering well and their care was part of the daily schedule. Injection times ranged from 7am to 10pm, catching and restraining a grown doe to inject sub-cutaneously was a proud moment.

Happy days


Some of the best moments were running around a field in wellies with the two hyperactive dogs. Gyppy the Border Collie slept next to me, and every morning started with a long walk. We were in Fitbit competition, that definitely helped.

The phrase “cling like a limpet” was new to me, I had never heard the word limpet before. One day we drove to the coast to go on a limpet hunt on the beach. The dogs enjoyed swimming and catching sticks. I took my first limpet shell home with me.

Once the evening jobs were done, I would snuggle up on the sofa with Gyppy and Mossy!

Goats are characters, doing the morning and evening jobs doesn’t feel like work. One of the doelings screams like a banshee for her breakfast the moment she hears a slight gate creak. William, Rug, Roger, and Bertie were eager to give me bruises to take home by jumping on my back in pure excitement. It was amazing to see how the individual kids had developed, Fred was always my favourite. The little dot has grown into a solid meat goat, who needs a gym membership in the new year when you can be lifting a chunky goat?

It won’t be long until 200 kids are due. Kidding for an extended weekend in March will be my next placement, introducing new life into the world will help with Fred’s fate. It is typical to fall in love with the wethers!

Until then, if you would like to read about my experience kidding in 2017 then I have linked the individual blog posts below.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Steph and I got our kid fix at Church Hillbilly. The 2 month old kids had the confidence to jump on our backs! Flashback to May.

The week old kids sweetly skipped around their pen or curled underneath the hay rack. I squealed a few times. It was lovely to visit Debbi and Dave’s Boer goat farm and to cuddle the tiny goats. I am ready for 2018 kidding!

“I always believe that the sky is the beginning of the limit”

So my advice would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone, get on a train or even a plane. This is coming from someone too anxious to leave my house for several months in 2015. There are no restraints or boundaries to opportunities when there is a whole world to explore. I have not only gained invaluable hands-on experience and taken on a lot of responsibilities, I have made friends for life. I will always go back to Moat Goats for placements, they are my goaty family! I learn things from the very high standard of animal welfare and wealth of knowledge that I cannot learn from a textbook. All whilst making great memories and enjoying myself.

I hope you have enjoyed a less clinical blog post and seen the memories that can be made whilst on work experience. If this inspires just one person to take an extra bus to volunteer at an unusual sanctuary, or to take a break from studying and book a week’s placement abroad!

Hetta Huskies

Originally, my intention was to systematically blog my entire time in Finland, I kept a diary. That blog post would progressively become a book.
So whilst there are further husky medical blogs in the works, here is a summarising post as a taster of what is to come on Mammals and Microscopes… watch this space!

‘Lessons from a Finnish Husky Farm’

I am a true believer of everything happening for a reason.

After working on a Boer goat farm for a few months, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Finland for work. 6 weeks in a wilderness area within the Arctic circle, for a husky guide internship. Whilst friends and family exuded envy, envisioning a husky holiday, I was busy chipping away at my 10,000 word application form.

Lesson 1: Always know what you are signing up for

‘As former endurance athletes, we believe that the hardest things in life bring the most rewards and that life is far too soft, nowadays, for the young generation. We believe in creating an atmosphere in which satisfaction comes from having done a job well, irrespective of notice or praise.’

Accustomed to apologising when someone accidentally steps on my foot, I had to prepare myself for the Finnish working culture. Having worked away, lambing outdoors from 6am-9pm for 7 consecutive days, my biggest fear was travelling solo, especially the transfers. So I took 2 trains to Pembrokeshire, to the Moat Goat family, to work for a week (and see my little Fred of course).

Lesson 2: Enjoy the journey

17th July 2017.

Over 24 hours, 2 flights, and 3 transfers later, I saw the HUSKY sign and anxiously walked towards the farm, lugging my suitcase behind.

Functioning on a few hours of sleep at the airport, I was put straight to work on my arrival at 5pm. 200m walk from the farm house, were the cages and circles, home to 200 huskies. As 6 weeks is a relatively short stay to be a guide, the huge task of learning 200 names began that instance.

The ‘lean pathway’ was the exact course we had to take on circles to feed the dogs, winding between the chains to ensure no dogs were missed out during the bi-daily routines. Add carrying two full water canisters, or two buckets full of dry food and offal meat blocks, that is a challenge. A challenge I was eager to set a ‘newbie’ record for.

Aleu, Nakat, Peanuts, Arun, Aslan, Dole, Doffen, Teasers, and Hickory… in my first evening I knew a considerable number of dog names with the corresponding positions.

Lesson 3: Work hard, play hard

After a week, I could identify most of the 200 dogs as work for me did not stop at 9pm. Each night, my studying consisted of memorising the daily feeding plans for each dog (skinny +/skinny/big/small/fat/special) and to know the specific quantities. Feeding timescales did not account for reading off information on a piece of paper; knowing requirements like the back of your hand made the evening jobs far more efficient. Simba did not like dry food, so he got 3 meat blocks each day and 1 cup of dry food; Sausage the oldie had turmeric and psyllium in his small dog quantity food. Imagine the chaos when 3 litters of puppies arrived.

The dreaded combination in the evening was being allocated food preparation, sick dog area feeding (lots of running inside and outside, as the dogs had to be fed on travel chains), before going down to the farm to feed cages…  all after a day of work. I would do 30,000 steps on these days.  Even then, going on a hike post-work or canoeing to the campfire were still enjoyable- there is no stopping husky guides!

Lesson 4: Make difficult tasks into fun challenges/personal goals

“It’s 20% physical strength and 80% mental strength’’. Red faced, slamming down the mallet on the cleaver, cutting 6 meat blocks into a few hundred equal chunks. It took every bit of strength for most of the guides, nonetheless each time I used a stopwatch to create a new record, and I soon hit the timeline. Although it was a dreaded chore, stronger guides could take longer as it largely depended on determination.

Lesson 5: Language barriers are a challenge but they also create comedy

Lorin perfectly stated, “When a campervan or tourist bus arrives, I hope they are French.”

This meant the farm tour would be allocated to the native French speakers; there would be a sigh of relief in the farm house.

My first farm tour was to a deaf German couple, which was a challenge to hit timelines and follow the script, but with the aid of gesticulation and the good old paper and pen, I had a great review.

A few weeks later, when I was driving a quad full of Syrian refugee children around the 2k husky track, I was reminded that there are so many universal languages, and laughter is a significant one.

“I have a hole in my welly”, Damien, a French guide pronounced welly with an ‘i’. You can imagine the tears that streamed down my face during my guide training week at the mispronunciation of “sheet” of paper. I will stop there!

Lesson 6: Strength in numbers

Living in a small guide house (1 bathroom!), with 11 others, I certainly made friends for life. Tough times called for team talks, and a reminder of why we were there- personally, I wanted to push myself mentally and to survive on this husky farm, you needed strength.

Lesson 7: The proof is in the pudding

Whilst lesson 7 is metaphorical for work allocations, In Hetta, the saying is literal. Being able to cook and bake was a vital basic ability a guide had to develop. Or if you are Heidi Wilson, fall on your face with 3 plates of pesto pasta.

First, I need to clarify that ‘pooping’ is picking up the faeces. When I returned home, I forgot that ‘pooping’ was guide language.

Climbing the work ladder meant hitting the timelines on the basic daily jobs of morning pooping and watering, training 4 dogs in 1 hour, and the evening feeding.

Fortunately, I quickly took up part of the medical workload. Administering daily meds, updating records, a colossal project of re-organising the medical cabinet and doing a stock check, clipping nails, squeezing anal glands, weekly in depth dog checks, and x3 a week heat check, need I go on?

Lesson 8: There are not many vets in the wilderness

Part of my time in Finland was spent seeing practice. By seeing, I mean monitoring oxygen and consciousness and administering the anaesthetic agent propofol intravenously throughout bitch spays, and tumour removals, clipping and preparing the surgical site, doing locking cutaneous suturing and individual stitches ON A REAL DOG.

 Lesson 9: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done”

After a morning of in-depth groundwork, I cried into a large pile of poop as there was no time to dwell, the compost needed to be done to the timeline.

Why? I was disappointed with my groundwork.

In hindsight, as long as a being is not going to be harmed and that you have fixed the kennels, then dogs do not care for a perfectly straight ground. I can only imagine what goes through their mind when they dig new holes as soon as a guide goes on to the next circle.

Seeing the bigger picture, on a husky farm and in life is paramount.

An incredibly difficult, but life changing work-away.
My lessons ranged from how to use a dishwasher, to how to develop personal resilience and accept constructive criticism.

Whilst these 6 weeks were some of the hardest times, and I suggested that ‘you will cry at least once’ should be added to the guide manual, I have definitely returned to England with an even greater work ethic and motivation to overcome any personal obstacles whilst growing thicker skin.

I would encourage any other 18 year olds to place themselves into an alien place where they are pushed to their absolute mental and physical limits, to improve themselves and gain new skills.

For anyone who loves a challenge, and to be completely outside of their comfort zone, I definitely recommend travelling to Hetta Huskies.
The experience has made a huge impact on my life, and will certainly continue to shape who I am.
Lessons from a husky farm are interchangeable with life as a sixth form student, I am glad stress has been put into perspective of the ‘real world’, however.

When times are tough, your favourite dog will turn any situation into a positive. There are always the other wonderful guides to offer support and motivation, and it is an incredible opportunity to make friends for life from all over the world.

Thank you to Anna and Pasi for welcoming me to your farm; it was an honour to work on a farm with impeccably high standard of welfare for the sled dogs.

Thank you to all of the guides who shared this experience with me, you were like family!
Until next time.

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A how to guide. Veterinary placements abroad.

“IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH.”

After asking for blog post inspiration on my instagram account @mammals_and_microscopes , here is a
HOW TO GUIDE: Getting work experience placements abroad.

(With the help of some incredible instagrammers in the online veterinary community.)

Securing placements at our local small animal practices can feel hard enough. Conducting a google survey of the local area to ensure that your email proposals have the highest chance of success, the worry of lacking previous experience to outcompete other aspiring vets, refreshing your email inbox in the hope that a response will magically appear.

So how on earth do you begin searching for placements abroad?

STEPHANIE’S STORY:

THE BEGINNING:

When I initially looked into overseas placements, I did not look for the location. Instead, I looked for placements with the animals I wanted to work with

I remember googling ‘elephant volunteering’, or ‘working with seals’.

It is good to note that there is a whole bunch of programs and websites that run specific programs for vets and vet students. This is so that you get all the information you want about your placement and the animals in regards to the veterinary industry surrounding them. Rather than solely gaining the understanding given to the general public volunteering.

GOOD CONTACTS:

To name a few locations that I know running these would be:
Elephant Nature Park
Wild Inside Vet Volunteers
Worldwide Veterinary Service
Globe Trotting Veterinary
and many more!

Doing this meant that I could do what I wanted to do with animals and worry about the location and getting there later

THE OBSTACLE:

The main issue with overseas placements is money.

So unless you are flushed with cash, I am not, it takes a lot of planning and saving.

I booked my placement in Thailand a year and a half in advance, and I was looking into it two years before the placement. All so that I had enough money for a deposit.

Having a budget and saving for your overseas placement will be worth it!

FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS:

If you are lucky enough to live in Australia (or other locations), the government will actually loan you money to go on 2 overseas placement trips through university. This loan is then added to your HCES university debt and is paid back through tax when you reach the income threshold to pay back your normal university debt.
Here in Australia this is called OS-help –  I wish I knew about it before my trip to Thailand!

DO YOU RESEARCH:

The most important thing is to look into all options when wanting to do an overseas placement.

You could believe that you have an amazing placement lined up in Africa to take care of the animals, only to find out that it is only so other customers can poach them.

Do your research!

Talk to fellow students and see where they have gone. Seek out recommendations. Remember to check to see if the university can help with funding or scholarships for this.

HAVE FUN!:

But most of all have fun and enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t let anyone put you off by saying “are you really going to go by yourself” because f*** yeah it is amazing!

 

HEIDI’S STORY:

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Another question was about money. 
With travel expenses, increased living costs, loss of working days (not an exhaustive list!). How can you afford to go on a placement abroad? 

FINLAND

I couldn’t in 2017, when I worked on a husky farm in Finland.

Although my journey to that placement is unique, it is proof that life can may just throw one at you. My first “proper” work experience placement opened the door to work in Finland. After a summer of volunteering in 2016, I was gifted a token to flights for 2017 in order to take on the challenge of husky farm life.

SWITZERLAND

Getting to Switzerland was a different story – Cheap flights.

I am currently packing for my next journey to Switzerland this February, £50 return with easyJet. Animals need care 365 days a year, but every place has its “off peak” month/s. A bonus is taking holiday pay off work for said placement. 

The answer to your flight problems:
sky scanner

“ALL THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE.”

Living away for veterinary work experience

LIVING AWAY FOR VETERINARY WORK EXPERIENCE 

From medical procedures and kidding events during my stays in Wales, to slaughter house legislation- I have shared plenty of educational content on my work experience blogs.

What about the times watching horror documentaries with hot chocolates during kidding? Headstand competitions in the lambing field? Getting tipsy in Finland after work around the campfire?

The idea of staying away from home for a period of time for work experience can seem daunting. 

But DO NOT FEAR.

Your “hosts” may become second families, you can integrate into the household life and share wonderful memories whilst your sides hurt from laughing so much at inside jokes. 

By running through the placements I stayed away from home, I am going to share some non-vet highlights and funny stories.

1. LARGE ANIMAL VET

Panic! I was locked in the hotel at 4 a.m. by bolted doors when I needed to be out of the door for a routine TB test.
The vet was waiting outside, we could not be late to an appointment. Being 5ft 3 (1.6 m) I had to put my backpack on the floor to use it to jump from, to tap the bolt across with my fingertips. I persisted.
Heidi 1 Bolt door 0.

As the vet was located in a remote area of the Lake District, I had to walk for hours to buy Pepsi Max. Making friends with the sheep along the way, a morning without call outs was spent well.

2. LAMBING

Hopping off the quad for headstand competitions in one of the lambing fields. My childhood gymnastics years are long gone, but my competitive streak is not. I was determined to win.
Headstands soon became bursts of laughter lying on the grass. Just avoid the sheep poop.

I can’t forget about the unique lambing experience. Placenta thrown in the face whilst assisting births, the extra challenge.  I wonder what they must have taught the culprit vet students at vet school? Were they preparing me for weird situations? I will have to wait and see!

3. KIDDING

Who would have thought that the phrase “Clinging like a limpet” would result in a goat-fam walk to the beach to find my first limpets? Now a running joke, kidding placements are not 24/7 goats when you stay with such an awesome family. 

Cuddling up in a blanket watching murder mysteries with hot chocolates is how we liked to spend a night after a busy day on the farm. 

I am grateful for my goat family in Wales! Always looking forward to my next stay there. 

4. FINLAND

Where do I start? 

My first days were spent being trained by a fellow French guide who described the training documents as “sh*ts of paper”. Those sheets made me cry laughing. 

After eating plain pasta when I arrived, I was made aware that I will learn to love pesto and become pesto pasta obsessed. That is true. We must have eaten our body weight x10 in pesto pasta. In a physically demanding job, coming home to bowls full of carbs was awesome. Apart from the time I fell over with 4 plates of pesto pasta, and cried because it was the icing on the cake of stress. 

Supporting immigrants’ integration into the local community in Finland consisted of farm activities such as berry picking, but my favourite has to be quad driving. Driving the quad around the track with a few children clinging on to me for their lives, fun until the quad starts to smoke!

I will never forget my leaving meal in the traditional kota on farm. I brought two of my favourite dogs, Tähti and Tog, to celebrate with! We ate food cooked on the fireplace and I drank until I was tipsy… so no one believed when I shouted, “THE NORTHERN LIGHTS”. As I exited the kota to begin walking to the guide house, I saw the blue bands of colour. 
The response was something along the lines of me drinking too much. 
Imagine the others’ faces when they saw the Northern Lights on our arrival at the guide house! I was no imagining it. 

5. SWITZERLAND

Getting lost on a hike up to Harder Kulm was great. Why? Because I met 2 cool travellers, we finished the hike together and I celebrated with coke zero as they enjoyed a beer as we sat with a bird’s-eye view of Interlaken.  

So, when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen for the Mürren hike, and saw a fellow solo hiker, I asked for a photo taken in order to begin a conversation. I was eager to make friends with more travellers. We decided to hike together, by the end we had already organised a meet up in Interlaken which led to eating out together! 

My host, Vera, and I walked the goats around the town, creating small crowds of people playing with Florian the goat and taking photos. Celebrities of Interlaken. There are too many hilarious moments to share with Vera, but she has become my “Swiss mum”. I already have my third trip to Switzerland coming up in 2 weeks, in the span of 7 months. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Veterinary work experience: Past, Present, Future

Past -> Present -> Future

Shock horror- attempting to take a more “go with the flow” approach to life in 2019 means I have no work experience booked.

Fortunately, the past few years of hard work have set a solid foundation for another exciting year of placements, to continue to immerse myself into the vet life.

Before committing to posting a monthly overview of my work experience placements in 2019, I thought that it would be helpful to share my past experience.

PAST

DOG DOYCARE CENTRE

(No photos, so here’s a cute photo with Stanley!)

BLACKPOOL ZOO KEEPER: ACADEMY STUDENT 

(Every Sunday for 3 months)

Just giving a tortoise a bath… as you do

KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK: ACADEMY STUDENT

(1 week)

Feeling tall

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1)

(1 week)

Small animal surgery confidentiality = cute Maisie to fill the gap

DAIRY FARM / PETTING FARM

(1 week)

Moooove along

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(1 week)

Here’s another space-filler! I have cared for 3 litters of pups at home.

EQUINE STUD FARM

(Every Sunday for 2 months)

Poop husbandry… how to handle + accurately do F.E.Cs

GENETICS DAIRY FARM

(Accumulated 5 random days)

Being 5ft 3 puts you right in the firing line.

HILL FARM

(1 day)

EQUINE VETERINARY PRACTICE

(10 days)

(Photo is actually from stud farm placement, vet confidentiality!)

BEEF FARM

(1 day)

A work of art – my first calf eartag

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1) – GOAT SPECIALIST 

(1 week, staying away from home)





A random goat photo – I have lots of those! Vet confidentiality.

WILD BIRD HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

A very countryside photo

HEDGEHOG HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

Always making friends on placement

ABATTOIR (SLAUGHTER HOUSE)

(1 day) 

Exposure and education

LAMBING (2500 EWES)

(10 days, living on farm)

Yes, I pulled these guys out

LARGE SCALE GOAT MEAT FARM (Wales)

Living on farm. Total: 5 weeks in vet work exp. 5 day week maths!

(10 days during kidding
1 week in summer
1 week in winter)

Dream kidding team

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(2 x 1 week placements = 2 week total)

An important aspiring goat vet milestone.
TAKING BLOOD.

HUSKY FARM IN FINLAND

(7 weeks)

Monitoring anaesthesia and stitching. When there is no vet nurses in the remote practice.

SWITZERLAND WORK AWAY WITH GOATS

(6 weeks)

Goats love me too

GOAT DAIRY FARM

A goat rotary parlour… AMAZING.

ULTRASOUND SCANNING LIVESTOCK

Early days for understanding the images, it is a learning process. Practice makes perfect.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION COURSE 

Waiting for the POP, if you know you know.

EDUCATIONAL FARM

(2 years)

Every child should learn about goats

PRESENT

Placement hosts have become second families, work experience has truly changed my life and shaped who I am today.

As 2018 drew to a close, I was over the moon to secure a full time position working in a kennels/cattery/stables. Full time work experience!

Outside of kennel assistant work:

GCSE tutoring
Learning to drive
Goat keeping

Work experience
Studying
ENJOYING LIFE
Travelling

I have a week in Switzerland booked, and hopefully a 2 day course at a local commercial goat farm soon. 

FUTURE

I would like to post a monthly work experience summary on my blog

Gain experience in a laboratory

Attend more courses

Spread the “Animals are my therapy” word

Here is to a wonderful 2019, with its ups and downs.

Heidi.

Dairy placement: I goat this, 13.11.18

“If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Not a pot of gold, but even better.

Goats were at the end of my rainbow.

Another day off work is another day heading to the goat dairy farm for work experience as I am eager to continue developing my understanding, skills, knowledge, and abilities, for a future in veterinary medicine.

Immersing myself into goat farming, I can see that the dream of becoming a caprine specialist is not a far-off fantasy. From the large scale milking of Saanens, and rearing Boers for meat, to the pet Pygmies, there is an increasing demand for speciality medicine.

Goats are not sheep, and they are certainly not small cows.
Goats are goats.

“I want to go about like the light-footed goats.” : Johanna Spyri, Heidi.

A Heidi photo update is a great opportunity to talk polled goat genetics, an interesting topic.

Polled is dominant allele, so is expressed in the homozygous or heterozygous state. However, homozygous dominant is linked with intersex does (genetically female) as the intersex linked gene is recessive therefore expressed in the homozygous individuals.

Heidi the goat is heterozygous!

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Ensuring that the kids are feeding regularly is a very important job on a dairy unit, because after 12 hours, the kids (with a belly full of colostrum) are grouped into pens. They now have human mothers!

There is a critical time period after kidding, during which the kids can absorb immunoglobulins. After 12 hours, the kids are extremely capable to begin learning how to feed from the teats and enjoy life with their small friends.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

Identified on the farm as a problem most prevalent in the multiples, due to limited space in utero, I was taught how to aid the correction of contracted fetlock tendons. (Tendons connect muscle to bone.)

For some kids, I flexed the hoof upwards repeatedly to carefully stretch the tendon to correct hoof placement on the ground. 
However, more severe cases require splinting for support above and below the joint. A splint was secured with vet wrap, over the soft cotton layers to ensure comfort. 

“Here we goat again”

Another opportunity to milk the 1,500+ goats on the rotary parlour.

With smaller fat globules, and less lactose, goats milk is a great alternative to cows milk. Found in the small intestine epithelium.  lactase is the enzyme that hydrolyses the glycosidic bond in lactose to produce glucose and galactose. If an individual does not produce sufficient amounts of lactase, the lactose is not digested and causes discomfort as it passes to the colon. Diarrhoea results from the lowered water potential causing water to move into the colon, and the bacteria breaking down the lactose release gases. 

Goats milk is also delicious. Have I sold it to you? 🙂

Switzerland part 4: Weekend break

Second family in Switzerland 

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Switzerland feels like home, the mountains make my heart happy.

After spending a summer in Switzerland, Vera (my host) became my adopted Swiss mother and the goats felt like my own. A 2 hour flight from Manchester to Basel is a great excuse for returning to my happy place for a long weekend. 

It was like I had never been away. Arriving at 12AM, I was greeted by Vera at the door and followed my Heidi signs to this: 

This is a reinforcement of everything happening for a reason. The mutual love of goats brought us together, but I never expected to feel like family.  

I will always endeavour to stay with locals on my future travels, to be immersed into the different cultures, and to avoid the tourist traps.
Hotel tourists sometimes miss out on the authentic experiences, often the most interesting experiences. (Although I can appreciate that this is not everyone’s cup of tea).

Time will pass and seasons will come and go

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Experiencing Interlaken in the Autumn is a whole new experience. You no longer have to play “the floor is lava”. The blanket of fallen leaves on pathways is a new hiking challenge, not the intense sun rays. (Time is also running out for the important branch collections for the goats!)

2 ladies jogging beside the river with goats is something you do not see every day!

Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing

Unlike England, escaping from the grey weather requires a simple excursion. Hop onto a bus up into the mountains, just 6 franks from Interlaken to Beatenberg. Fog sea, or fog soup (Nebelsuppe), depending on how you perhaps perceive this phenomenon. 

England could take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book when it comes to public transport. Always on time. Even if there is a period of time between connections, I am either captivated by the surrounding nature or amused by the locals’ animals. 

I gained a new perspective of Niederhorn. Instead of gliding above it during a 2 hour tandem paraglide, I took a cablecar and hiked back to the tourist centre of Beatenberg. The Swiss mountains never fail to take my breath away. 

Awe-inspiring. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the mountains, I sat and cried. It was a cathartic moment. In these moments, “being” is enough. Any extra is a bonus. I am trying to go forward without expecting anything from the world, no longer feeling like a victim. I can be miserable feeling constantly unproductive and unfulfilled OR I can embrace my journey for what it is because life is not a race. No expectations = no failures, just great effort to achieve great things (whatever they may be). Switzerland feels like home, I feel content in the mountains. An unpaved path brought me here, it was not part of a strategic life plan.

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Dairy placement: Just kidding, 7.11.18

All experience is good experience 

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Off work = on placement.
Whilst I am continuously developing my general interpersonal skills in my workplace, I have 1 day a week on placement to gain career-focussed skills and knowledge.
Swapping the uniform for overalls, the customers for goats. 

Life is a Merry-Go-Round

A time lapse of milking 1,500 goats puts the daily care of 3 pet goats into perspective. Check out this awesome rotary parlour.

Although I have been part of the team for afternoon milking on a cattle dairy farm,  goats make the ultimate milking experience for any aspiring-goat-specialising-vet.

No poo in the face either, bonus.

Goat vet goals

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In order to be a certified CAE negative herd, all animals must have a blood sample taken for laboratory testing. Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is a disease caused by a lentivirus. Following accreditation, a closed herd would be the highest biosecurity measure but this would prevent the introduction of genetic variation to avoid inbreeding. Therefore, testing any bought-in billy is most beneficial to the future of the herd. In addition, the virus can be spread from infected does to any kids receiving colostrum or milk so these fluids should not be taken from does (or other farms) with unknown CAE status. 

My goats are with the same veterinary practice, so it was great to work alongside one of the brilliant vets again during 3 hours of taking blood from 300+ goats. Writing down the correct breed/sample tube number/ear tag number/age/gender of each goat through the run was my job. Despite writing hundreds of numbers, it was very important for the data to have no errors whilst also guarding the paperwork and veterinary equipment from the inquisitive goats. Smudge, however, became my assistant.

I noticed that the paperwork was also used for MV testing, a new abbreviation to me . On research, I have found that Maedi Visna is a similar viral disease affecting sheep. You learn something new every day. 

A milestone in the aspiring goat specialist veterinarian path – taking a blood sample from a goat. See the action shots:

The circle of life 

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Kidding time on a farm means that you have to be prepared to assist births at any moment.

Presentation of head only means time to correct the dystocia.
Gloves and lube on, I gently inserted my hand into the doe’s vagina to bring the forelimbs forward to successfully deliver the kid. Taking care not to damage the delicate goat uterus and ensuring minimal distress for the does (often dramatically screaming).

One of the greatest feelings is helping to bring an animal into the world. 

Meet Heidi

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The kids have around 12 hours to drink colostrum in the vital first 6 hours of their life whilst they are able to absorb the antibodies. Following this, they are transferred to pens to begin training to drink from the milk feeder. This is a new aspect of kidding time to me, as my previous placements have been with goats reared for meat so the kids have remained with their mothers until weaning.

These dairy kids have so much love from their human parents. They play around with their goaty friends, and adore the attention from workers.

One of my goals of the day was to name a goat Heidi.

HEIDI + HEIDI:

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The highlight of my week. A crazy goat lady’s heaven.

Lessons from goats

Welcome to the wonderful world of goat keeping. 

Members of “goaty friends” have shared their main lessons from their caprine companions.

Step 1 to goat keeping? Before searching for the ideal goat?

1. THINK FORT KNOX

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“How to build secure fencing.”
“Fencing is never high enough or strong enough.”
“Fence well before the goats arrive so when they check out the fence they feel trapped right from the start.”
“Can’t go over it, go under, can’t go under, go through… teleport.”
“I’m pretty sure we somehow managed to buy flying goats.”
“If the boundary is safe you can relax.”
“No gate is low enough to the ground.”
“My goats have taught me how to slide through a gate without barely opening it at all.”
“No fence is high enough.”

What about the “goats eat everything” statement?

2. GOATS LOVE FOOD

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“Everything is edible.”
“Food is temporary.”
“A goat can spot a food bucket at about half a mile.”
“That they can love each other so very much, or hate each other with a passion, especially around food.”

They certainly keep you occupied

3. ATTENTION

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“What you think is sufficient pats/cuddles is never enough & that it’s fun for them to jump on your back”

4. BRAINY GOATS

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“That they are very intelligent especially for their own ends.”
“They watch humans and mimic them to learn how to use stiles.”

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

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“Learn to think 5 steps ahead of them!”
“Don’t plan anything!”
“To have eyes in the back of my head.”

BUT it isn’t all fun and games…

6. GOATS KNOW HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS

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“Patience!”
“Never underestimate their ability to come up with a new way to cause you agro all with an innocent look on their faces.”
“Never trust them when they look innocent, the amount of tops I have with holes in as the goats had a nibble before I realised!”
“Trust your instincts!”
“They’ve taught me Swear words!! I didn’t know I knew so many till i started milking goats.”
“How extremely intelligent and utterly stupid they can be at the same time.”

7. PREPARE FOR MESS… they are kids after all

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“Always have a spare set of overalls. And wellies. And socks.”

…Especially when it comes to kidding time

8. YOU HAVE GOAT TO BE KIDDING

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“Kidding will occur at the least appropriate or convenient moment. You’re screwed.”
“Queens of the herd are forever (or at least until kidding season).”
“You can wait and watch a goat kidding for hours and nothing but the two seconds you nip for a wee it’s all over!”
“The “Go and make us a coffee, she will be ages yet!”” 
“Deep snow on the ground? No water? Power out? Congratulations! You have a 100% guarantee at least one goat will have quads today.”

They teach us some serious stuff too.

9. LIVE IN THE NOW

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“They have taught me you are never prepared for the worst.”
“…whenever I get caught up in the past I go to the goat shed and remind myself to live in the now and take care of what I can take care of now and let the rest go.”

The finale…

10. MAN’S BEST FRIEND? GOATS.

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“That life was incomplete without them.”
“That you can never have too many goats.” 
“They are very understanding and patient with people who have disabilities.”
“I have had mine since May and am totally in love.I didn’t know they play as much as they do.So beautiful.I am in love with them both.”
“My love for them & what they give back! can’t imagine my life without them! I have a 6 year old gg I’m her fifth owner what I was told about her I thought what have I done purchasing her but they tell you the truth! I wouldn’t be without her!”
“No two goats are same, all have their own quirks and traits. Can be testing at times but 100% worth it.”
“How loving and funny and clever goats are.”
“They have taught me how much an animal can love both each other and the humans around them”
“They’ve taught me how to be a crazy goat lady.”

Switzerland part 3: Life lessons

Summer 2017

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Last year, I shared my top 9 lessons from a summer working with 200 working dogs in Lapland.
I had only envisioned gaining great husky handling and farm fixing skills. I was oblivious to the general necessary life lessons that I would be boarding my return flight with.
You can read the truly life-changing lessons
here

Summer 2018

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Fast forward to spending my Summer of 2018 in Switzerland.

2 weeks in England has given me time to reflect, continue to explore spirituality, apply the teachings.

Enough time to collect my thoughts.

1. “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.” – Albert Einstein 

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Meet my incredible host:

Vera

Living in a farmhouse with goats is my dream, for Vera it is reality.

Of course, living with 2 goats is not the social norm but Vera taught me that if you do not fit in then you are doing the right thing as you have a high level of determination and mental strength to proceed despite facing conflicting views.

From laughing until our sides hurt from our inside jokes, to having enlightening conversations, I have learned so much from such a wonderful woman. 


“Go with the flo”

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Embracing spontaneity adds colour to an otherwise black and white monotonous life.

Aspiring to live a life in which fulfilment is not achieved by a rigorous daily schedule. The only thing that can go to plan is the here and now, the moment we do have control over. 

The ultimate paragliding experience cannot be planned weeks in advance, NOW is the only time I knew we were going to run off the mountainside and glide through the air, the single moment of appropriate wind to take-off.

Kiko body, kiko mind

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You may even make your own language during a work placement abroad!
Whether I was going on a kiko hike, that Bruno is a kiko goat, that Vera makes a kiko bike tour. Kiko means strong.

Be kiko. 

In Interlaken, I truly appreciated the strength of mind required to be content with life during moments of peacefulness and nothingness. The backdrop of the Alps constantly offered a sense of tranquility despite moments of hustle and bustle on Höheweg.

What I mean by that is having the constant drive and need to be productive, be active, learn, alone does not constitute the strength of an individual. Being alone with your own thoughts requires great strength that should not be undermined.

Whilst house-sitting, I could spend time sat in the sun with the goats. I pushed aside the compelling need to be reaching 30k, 40k, even 50k steps a day, and simply embraced the only thing in my control – the present. 

Home is where the mountains are

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As a goat-keeper named Heidi, Switzerland was calling me. I did not know what to expect, but I was adamant that Switzerland would be my next adventure destination.

From the challenges set by the steep mountainside ascents, to forming the perfect background for appreciating the serenity of the “now”, I learned that being located in a mountainous region made me feel genuine happiness.  

Just add a traditional Swiss dress, and I am the real life Heidi doing cartwheels in the mountains.

You never travel alone

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“Hey, please could you take a photo for me?”.

“Sure, please could you take my photo too?”.

There.
When travelling, that is how a friendship can start.  


Get lost on a hike? Kind people will lead the way, join the group and have a laugh.

I lost any apprehension to start conversations with “strangers”, I said hello to every passing hiker, I talked to dog owners about their dogs. Realistically, with the extreme reactions being statistical outliers, being ignored was the worst thing that could happen. A chance I took, I conversed with interesting people with interesting stories.

Even when I reached Basel airport to travel home, whilst waiting for the plane, I heard about a man’s life in India and his grandchildren in Switzerland, a lengthy talk meant that neither of us were alone waiting for our flight. 

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

 

Fleur’s story: Always go for your dreams

FLEUR

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ALWAYS GO FOR YOUR DREAMS

IT STARTED WITH GOATS

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My story began in 2014 when my primary school got 2 goats named Sooty and Sweep. I had always loved animals. When all of the other girls played with dolls or did their hair and makeup, I would be playing with worms and snails. I didn’t really have many friends, a couple of close ones, but none of them truly shared the same passion for animals. I’m going to be honest –  mucking out the goats and feeding in the middle of winter on my own at the age of 11 was hard. Then, it hit me, I wanted to work with farm animals!

A NEW JOURNEY 

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Choosing a secondary school to start a new journey was a hard decision. I finally chose Bebington High School because they had their own farm and offered a BTEC course in animal care. 

Year 7 was hard. I kept the same friends and worked very hard at the farm. The farm had a range of animals, from sheep and pigs, to goats and chickens. I had the responsibility of mucking them out and feeding, in the mornings and after school. I made a couple of friends at the farm, but most of the kids left after year 8 – I stayed! Year 9 came and it was time to start my choices. I chose animal care (obviously), and so far it has been amazing! I also met one of my closest friends, Jack Price, who is like a brother to me. We do everything together, and we both have the same amazing passion for animals, which is awesome.

CHALLENGES MAKE YOU DISCOVER THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF 

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The farm is great, but we wanted to get more experience with different farm animals, so we helped on a dairy farm. We herded the cows for milking, tagged the calves, gave hay to the cows and horses, and helped with milking. It was very hard work, but worthwhile. 

I decided that dairy cows weren’t for me. Sheep are my passion. 

Meanwhile, at the school farm there was a decrease in animals due to land limitations and animal welfare comes first. We currently have chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, and a menagerie of small animals and reptiles. In October, we are hoping to get 2 in-lamb Castlemilk Moorit ewes. It would be an exciting change as we had Zwartbles and Hampshire Downs before. 

THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN UNEXPECTEDLY 

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Jack and I wanted to gain experience with other animal species so we plucked up the courage to visit Park Lodge Animal Experiences after seeing the ponies, alpacas, chickens, and a huge German Shepherd dog. To our surprise, the seemingly normal building opened a door to doves, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice – any small animal that you could think of! I was ecstatic to be offered a volunteer opportunity.

It didn’t stop there. We entered a dim room – a Halloween decorated reptile room! All sorts of snakes (one was even named Fleur!), tarantulas, scorpions, bearded dragons, and geckos too! A dream, I was in my element surrounded by these beautiful animals. 

The first job was to sweep leaves. Perhaps not your typical first job, but there is so much more to working with animals as we had to ensure that the environment they were in was clean. When we went around the back, I saw an alpaca for the first time and I was in love. We swept up the poop, let the hens out, and then met the outdoor animals. Angus the skunk had 3 kids, and I was sprayed on. Don’t laugh! There were also 2 very needy ferrets with very sharp claws, 2 rabbits, and ex-battery chickens. 

BY DOING WHAT YOU LOVE  YOU INSPIRE AND AWAKEN THE HEARTS OF OTHERS

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Then, it was our first animal encounter with 7 children and their parents. The children were amazed and fascinated by the snakes, geckos, and tarantula. Telling everyone about the animals made me so happy.

I had a light bulb moment – that this is what I want to do. I would love to be an animal educator, and teach people all about the beauty of the animal kingdom.

Jack and I visited more frequently and gained more responsibility as we took kids out for pony rides independently. Opportunities to help at shows around the UK came up, similar to doing animal encounters but with the general public.

YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT 

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The animal encounters are run by a lovely woman named Alice, who also owns a rescue. Recently, we discussed being more involved, and eventually taking over the rescue when Jack and I are old enough. We are so excited. That brings me to the now – school holidays are nearly finished and it’s back to school for year 10, and I really can’t wait to see what the future brings.

My motto is “always go for your dreams no matter how big or small you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it” and I will follow that motto for the rest of my life 😁🙌💪

FLEUR

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Farmerfleur365