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

 

Switzerland part 2 : Happy hiking Heidi

Situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, my first week in Interlaken consisted of many breathtaking hikes. From peaceful strolls along the Aare River to the painful steep incline of reaching Harder Kulm – a summer to improve my navigational skills!

Iseltwald: Find the goats

After a short walk to the Interlaken Ost station with my visitors card in hand, I simply hopped onto a free bus to Mühle, Iseltwald. Gazing out of the window across Lake Brienz made the 20 minute bus journey fly by. Winding around narrow roads on the mountain-side, I was amused by the bus horn that ensured no head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. 

“Don’t walk onto the highway!!!” – words of warning from Vera, my host in Interlaken.
The journey up the mountain required walking on a busy roadside before a steep hike to the animal sanctuary . Imagine my sense of relief when I heard a goat bell!
It became a running joke to survive traffic on my ventures out of Interlaken.

A dream- the animal sanctuary overlooked the lake of tranquil emerald water.

My legs certainly appreciated the smooth descent into the picturesque village of Iseltwalt. I find goats wherever I go and I had a great selfie opportunity with the ibex (wild goat) statue. I plan to return to Iseltwalt to visit the Giessbach Falls along the Riverside path.

However, I did not anticipate the blazing heat exceeding 30 ºC, I returned with unforgettable memories along with a lovely sunburn. 

Interlaken walking tour

Joining The Interlaken Free Walking Tour one evening was a no brainer! 2 hours with a local expert guide to learn about the history and culture of Interlaken with travellers from around the world. Thunderstorms could not stop us having an educational entertaining exploration of the town.

I was introduced to the ibex, the wild goat with majestic horns to outcompete any Golden Guernsey goat.

Lake Thun: multiple days

Having explored Lake Brienz, Lake Thun was next to tick off the ‘to hike to’ list.

A top tip: walk alongside the meandering Aare River so even incompetent place-finders like myself can never get lost en route to the lakes. Again, I enjoyed spotting some of the local livestock and feeling like Doctor Dolittle. I returned on a few occasions to visit the cattle and sheep.

Maybe I did get a little lost… but you never know what is around the corner.

I stumbled upon Weissenau Castle in Unterseen. Following the gloomy staircase up the ruins was a brilliant decision, I was surprised to find a hidden platform to capture the most incredible view of Lake Thun surrounded by mountains.

Another unexpected moment was when I reached the edge of Lake Thun a tourist was perched taking photographs of the impressive landscape, a photo opportunity for a solo hiker.

Spot the Pyramid of Niesen in the distance. 

Harder Kulm

“Hard” for sure.  The 8 minute funicular ride is often opted by tourists to reach the 1,322m high viewing platform over the 2 hour steep ascent.

Competitive and determined, the 2 things an amateur hiker needs to be to reach the top during a heatwave. A lesson from working on a husky farm in Finland – never underestimate mental strength in comparison to physical strength. I knew that my face would be the colour of my T-shirt by the time I had reached the top.

No surprise that I misunderstood the signs along the trail and hiked too far up the mountain than the viewing point. Always creating additional challenges for myself!

Everything happens for a reason.

After asking hikers for directions we ended up talking about England, our travels, goats, university… we reached the viewing point together. A group photo, drink in the sun, and taking the funicular down the mountain was the ultimate reward. 

 

Lake Thun hike in storm

Thunderstorm! Another hike to Lake Thun. 
Note to self: avoid all trees during lightning.

 After a few days of intense heat, the rapid release of rain was a relief – typical Northern England weather anyway. Walking during the storm was relaxing even with the funny looks from tourists for wearing shorts.

St. Beatus Caves

Another hike to appreciate the wonders of Lake Thun.

I took a more scenic route on the 8km hike to St. Beatus Caves, avoiding the busy traffic and sharp bends of the roads. After following the river to Neuhaus I hiked a section of the picturesque Pilgrims’ Path (Pilgerweg) which was clearly signposted.

An impressive guided tour, a not so impressive 5 CHF coke zero. I will never forget to take my water bottle with me around Switzerland again.

Mürren

Interlaken Ost – Wilderswil – Lauterbrunnen – Grütschalp – Mürren – Gimmelwald – Stechelberg – Interlaken

Whilst the cable car to Grütschalp was not the idyllic mode of transport I envisioned, the hike to Mürren was an incredible day of walking. An alternative to the expensive ticket for Jungfrau is viewing Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau from Mürren.

Shout out to Sarah from New Zealand… after asking Sarah to take a photo of me in Grütschalp,  we hiked to Mürren together and had the best time!

“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.” – LAWRENCE K. FISH

I advise other solo travellers to speak to strangers to make new friends even if you are a fellow introvert.

LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!

 

 

 

 

Switzerland part 1: Becoming the real life “Heidi”

“Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.”

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With a summer of working as a husky guide at Hetta Huskies in Finland behind me, I decided to spend 6 weeks in summer 2018 visiting another European country for the first time.

Switzerland… the home of Heidi … and many goats.
I began my workaway search “switzerland goats” and I found Vera, Bruno and Florian in the beautiful Interlaken.

A lovely farmhouse described by Vera:

  • listening to the wind whispering in the trees, in the roof beams and to the goats ruminating dreamily in their stable

  • the view out of the bed to the starry or cloudy sky, the snowy mountains, the forests, the trees, …

  • the fresh air from the glaciers coming into your room with a ray of sunlight, which wakes you up in your bed

  • listening to the patter of raindrops on the roof and the trickle of water into the rain barrel

  • listening to songbirds whistle in the morning and the hedgehog rustling around during night

An opportunity to have a break, care for 2 *very special* goats, hike in the mountains, meet new people and experience a different way of life… an opportunity I could not turn down. I had a crazy-goat-lady connection with Vera so I could not wait to finally meet the trio.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

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Before I headed to Manchester Airport on 28th June I had to give my dogs one last hug so the journey could begin.

After a short flight to Basel and a swift bus transfer to Basel station, I had a 2 hour scenic train journey to Interlaken Ost. Straightforward! 

“and so the adventure begins!”

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For the past 4 months I followed #interlaken on instagram, no filters needed. I was astounded by the picturesque views, the emerald Aare river, the breathtaking mountains.

Spotting the ibex (wild goat) coat of arms on my short walk to Vera’s farmhouse, I was confident I would feel at home. Some people like to sunbathe with a cocktail in their hand on a beach in Barbados, I knew that having the responsibility of Florian and Bruno the goats whilst having time to embrace the wonders of nature here in Interlaken was the ultimate way to relax. 

Florian and Bruno would like to share a day in the life of a goat… watch this space for Switzerland updates 🙂

 

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!

Large animal vets, Day 5, 7.7.17

My final day began with a yard visit to see two more horses.
The first had sarcoids, sarcoids are tumours that won’t metastasise (meaning they won’t spread to internal organs).
There are 6 different types of sarcoid.
  • Nodular
  • Verrucose
  • Fibroblastic
  • Occult
  • Mixed
  • Malevolent
Similarly, there is a wide range of treatments from cryosurgery and ligation to immunomodulation.
It was interesting to discuss immunomodulation with the vet because I study human tuberculosis in my biology A level immunology option.
The Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccination used in humans can be injected into equine sarcoids to enhance the immune response and to cause tumour regression.
The vet then did a dynamic assessment on a second horse, sadly the horse could not progress to the trotting stage due to the severe lameness.
A vet can advise owners, but it is ultimately their choice and the decision was made for the knackerman to humanely shoot the horse.
There were two euthanasia options, barbiturate overdose or shot. The lethal injection ensures that the horse is going to be incinerated or cremated, whilst shooting a horse has more disposal options. (Horse meat scandal!)
There are many advantages and disadvantages to both procedures, but unless it is an emergency case, it is personal preference of the owner who may have a 25 year relationship with their animal.
An interesting case was an impromptu calf post-mortem to check for calf diphtheria.
Fusiformis necrophorus can enter the soft tissue when the epithelial lining of the mouth is damaged, it then forms a pus-covered ulcer. Ulcers at the back of the tongue create great difficulties for swallowing, and the infection can pass into the lungs and cause fatalities.
However there were no identifiable calf diphtheria ulcers, and the cause of death was not determined. For detailed microscopic tissue analysis, the necropsy would be sent to a post-mortem service with a pathology report and in-depth carcass examination.

Large animal vets, Day 4, 6.7.17

A PD to start the day! 5 months earlier I had done a rectal palpation on a heavily pregnant cow whilst seeing practice out of the area. This is the traditional method that has been used by veterinarians for decades, it does not require any equipment. Just a long arm, long glove, and lots of lube.
Intrarectal ultrasound scans enable a veterinarian to make a pregnancy diagnosis earlier and to identify any reproductive problems due to the imaging. Ultrasound scans give a greater insight into the reproductive health of the cows, and this technology is evolving.
Continuing with the cattle theme, the next patient was a dairy cow with a left displaced abomasum. On my first day, I assisted the vet in the operation so if you would like to read about the procedure then click here
En route to the next appointment, we headed to a farm to splint a sheep with a dislocated leg. A splint was secured against the leg with vet wrap after it was padded. In order to support the ewe’s weight and to aid the natural healing process, the splint has to be long enough to immobilise the joints above and below.
 Once the sheep was supported, we continued down the road to the large commercial dairy goat farm for disbudding.
Quite a few of my blog posts cover the procedure of disbudding with the arguments for and against.
We established our ‘disbudding production line’, I selected the doelings in order of the documentation in order to track the anaesthesia timings as it was more efficient to inject them all with general anaesthetic before disbudding.
Once the vet had disbudded a kid, I placed it under the heat lamp ensuring the neck placement would not restrict the airway, and then passed the next kid due to be disbudded.
The final appointment of the day was to check what the reproductive status of the cow was.
A cow’s oestrus cycle is on average 21 days. I hear the phrase ‘bulling’ when I am seeing practice, this is the behaviour that the farmer sees when she is in oestrus.
Oestrus lasts around 8 hours and is the period of maximum sexual activity.
It is interesting to read that from day 4-5, the veterinarian can feel the corpus luteum which is the yellow body remaining once the follicle bursts to release the oocyte.
The cow had an enlarged vulva and bulling string poured was visible on vaginal examination.
Ovulation occurs about a day after ‘standing heat’. The sperm process of capacitation requires time in the cow’s reproductive tract before fertilisation can occur, hence insemination timing being a major calculated process.
It is always interesting to form parallels with my A-level biology specification, as I can apply human biology to the different species I see on my work experience.