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.

Large animal vets, Day 3, 5.7.17

Equipment loaded, the vet and I headed to a yard for the first patients of the day.
The first horse had similar symptoms to the horse we saw the previous day, with lumps, so the horse was treated for an allergy.
On my work experience with equine vets, I saw how difficult it can to pinpoint an allergy like with any species due to the large range of environmental variables.
Something that is not covered by my biology specification is allergic reactions, so I decided to read up on this topic in my great big red biology bible due to my great interest in immunology.
An allergen is an antigen that triggers an allergic reaction, a heightened immune response. During the primary exposure of an allergen, B cells differentiate into plasma cells and produce IgE. Individuals, in this case horses, with allergies will produce a large amount of this immunoglobulin. This is an issue because IgE binds to mast cells and on the secondary exposure of an allergen, this antigen attaches to the IgE bound to the mast cells. As a result, the mast cell with lysis and histamine, serotonin and heparin are released.
In generalised responses, histamine released in large quantities can be fatal due to bronchioles restricting and arteriole dilation. However, in this case the allergic reaction has caused lumps in the skin.
Antihistamines can work by competitive inhibition by occupying histamine receptors.
The second treatment was a topical corticosteroid which is absorbed into the skin and reduces inflammation by constricting blood vessels and inhibiting the chemical reaction causing inflammation. Steroids are naturally occurring hormones.
The second horse patient was due a routine dental examination.
Due to the hay and feed components of a horses diet, with less grazing, the teeth are not naturally wearing down. Therefore, the vet used a hand rasp to smooth the edges of the teeth whilst the horse had a gag on. Routine visits, like with humans, prevents serious dental problems. A horse with sharp edges to their teeth can be difficult to work, due to the pain from the bit.
Once we were back at the vet practice, I started reading my goat veterinary book, until a lame goose was brought in for an examination.

A non steroidal anti inflammatory was administered in order to reduce the inflammation and pain. NSAIDs inhibit cyclooxygenase, COX, enzymes which have an important role in the process of inflammation.
It is vital to note that cyclooxygenase enzymes produce prostaglandins that activate platelets, they protect the lining of the stomach and intestine, it is not an ideal long-term drug for conditions such as arthritis.

The final case of the day was a cow with a serious case of mastitis that was unaffected by the usual course of antibiotics. Therefore, an E-coli infection was suspected which is an environmental infection that has entered through the teat end.
Vets have an major role in implementing methods to reduce antibiotic resistance at farms, and to educate owners about the risks of not completing courses of antibiotics or using them when unnecessary.

Large animal vets, Day 2, 4.7.17

Seeing veterinary practice reinforces that no case is as simple as applying a textbook study. Our first call out was a prime example.

A beef cow had a swollen hind right hock, with a dependent calf yet to be weaned, the cow was going to be culled post-weaning.
There were no obvious signs of injury, anorexia was probably secondary to a lack of mobility caused by the inflammation.
To minimise the pain, a course of metacam was prescribed as the non-steroidal anti-inflamattory will reduce the inflammation thus pain.
Despite culling being the outcome of choice by the farmer, a veterinarian’s primary consideration has to be to alleviate pain for the period of time it is alive, in the patient’s best interest.

When veterinarians adapt a more holistic approach like I have seen on my work experience, they are improving the general animal welfare whilst working with the farmer. For example, the suggestion was made that the cow and her calf are kept in a more confined indoor area due to the accessibility and eradication of competition for food.

Through work experience, I appreciate the nature of large animal work as farming is an industry. Spending a day at a local abattoir, however, demonstrated the strict rules and regulations with animal welfare at the forefront.

The second appointment of the day was a calf castration with burdizzo for management purposes. This is why we see entire bulls with nose rings. The ideal result is more docile and manageable steers with a desirable meat quality.
Like the kids and lambs I have castrated with an elastrator, rubber ringing is only legal in the first 7 days of a calf’s life.
Using a burdizzo is another bloodless technique which can be used up to 2 months of age, after administration of local anaesthetic.
The spermatic cord must be palpated to ensure the vas deferens and vessels are being clamped, which is why calves will not be castrated under a few weeks old with this method.A horse had lumps under the muzzle, which is a symptom of strangles due to swollen glands in the throat. On arrival, the clinical examination ruled out strangles due to the absence of other warning signs such as nasal discharge, depression and a cough.
Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial infection and horses can develop painful abscesses.

The prognosis was that administering anti-inflammatory and anti-histamines will reduce the symptoms as it appears to be an allergic reaction. It was interesting to hear that human anti-histamines can be used for equine allergies, in large doses calculated by a veterinarian!

 

Cronkshaw Fold Farm, Goat herd update, November 2017

November has been the month of the goats.

In 18 months, I have gone from a ‘put the bucket under the hay-net and put hurdles upside down, avid textbook reader’ to an accredited artificial inseminator with over 2,000 hours of work experience in the veterinary and associated industries.

Before I head off on my winter travels, I will share a blog post about my greatest NON ACADEMIC achievements of 2017, to bring this rollercoaster of a year to a close. A great emphasis on the non-academic because numbers should not define happiness, let’s stamp out the burn-out academic culture.

The quote ‘some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost’ is fitting. Whilst mental illness will always have negative impacts on my wellbeing and life, every cloud has a silver lining. The road to my heart is paved with goat-hoof-prints, you can read more about my journey here: https://mammalsandmicroscopes.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/animals-are-my-therapy/

From the goat veterinary society meeting to the British Goat Society accredited AI course, November made me feel like the luckiest crazy-goat-lady.
Meeting pioneers of an area of veterinary medicine I am so dedicated to study is an invaluable opportunity to learn from their wealth of knowledge and expertise. Discussing the future of goat veterinary medicine with qualified veterinarians, students, farmers, pet-owners, is inspiring and fuels my drive to make a difference for this super species.

Shout out to my dad for building this brilliant milking stand for the goats, so we could appropriately restrain the goats to minimise stress during the artificial insemination course.

I am sure that if my goats were allowed in my house, they would become part of the furniture. Family!


I had no problem getting my Guernseys to jump up so let’s hope they behave during milking *fingers crossed*.

 


Although Esme and Lyra were empty, after positioning the probe correctly with the curtain of hair, it is a lesson for future goat breeding.
Despite being the most placid gentle giant, Jasper loves his food (like all goats) so became boisterous at feeding time. I believed that he had spent enough time with the girls to have done the deed, I was wrong.
It is not as though Jasper is going to complain!
They are one happy family again. Fingers crossed for the next month, but what is meant to be is meant to be.

Keeping animals is not all sunshine and rainbows. Like humans they get ill, sometimes we won’t have a definite diagnosis.

In the process of elimination, I took a faecal egg sample from one of the sick doelings. Again, another future blog post will cover the faecal egg sampling service and the main worm culprits that make goats unwell. Thanks toWest Gate Labs for their speedy, efficient service.

The rapid results showed that a relatively large strongyle egg and liver fluke burden had been identified. All of the Boers were treated immediately, to prevent any others from deteriorating.

Back to positive news! On the 13th November, Red the billy goat, was placed in the pen with the Boer does. The joys of kidding time will be a break from my A level exams in the summer, a time to switch off from studying.

Another November achievement is the confidence Lyra has gained. Okay, maybe she now needs to learn manners of not running out of the pen. But the timid ‘Esmé shadow’ is now running around the barn having the time of her life jumping on the straw stairs.

Maisie even walked up to the farm with me to meet my goats.

 

On the 25th November, I attended the grand opening of the new farm classroom. It was a great event, albeit cold.

A huge congratulations to Dot, who’s vision has come to life through a LOT of hard work!

 

This is the last goat update of 2017 due to the upcoming blogs of 2017.

So here are a few of my favourite photos from November!

Featuring the incredible goat barn signs commissioned by Sara from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DandelionsGallery❤️

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British Goat Society accredited AI course, 4.11.17-5.11.17

Conveniently timed with my biology ‘human reproduction’ topic revision, I hosted an artificial insemination course at the farm to learn about goat reproduction, and become a BGS accredited AI technician.

The first day consisted of lectures to learn the underlying theory behind artificial insemination.

Here is the anatomy and physiology component syllabus:

If livestock breeding application questions appear in my exam, I am well equipped to discuss the pros and cons of artificial insemination.
The reasons I will use AI on my Golden Guernseys, to selectively breed certain characteristics into a herd. Although Jasper is a lovely billy, AI gives me access to superior sires without the disease risk of transporting goats to different farms.
However, it is important for AI technicians to be aware of the risks of restricted the gene pool due to the limited available semen.


The following day, I learned how to safely handle liquid nitrogen (following the C.O.S.H.H regulations), before practicing safe goat restraining and the AI technique.

The AI prime time is 20-30 hour in heat, when the mucous holds its shape.
Although Daisy’s mucous was runny, the rings of muscle in her cervix were slightly relaxed.
The aim is to insert the gun through 1/2/3 cervical muscle rings, without force. If you cannot do this, then the semen needs to be deposited at the cervix entrance.
On my first attempt, I got the tip of the gun through one ring on Daisy, then two rings on Bella.


Vets can train in laparoscopic AI, and I believe that it is important to have a great understanding as both a goat keeper and a goat vet to work with farmers to provide solutions to goat welfare problems and be able to medically advise breeding programmes.

A huge thanks to Christine Ball and Brian Perry for being fantastic teachers!