“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!