24 hour Mind hike, 16.9.17-17.9.17

Walking boots on.

On Friday 15th September, I travelled to the Lake District for the Mind Hike 2017 charity  fundraising event for the briefing.

When it came to the briefing, I cried… a lot! Tears of happiness. Team Falcon were doing the hike for best friends, brothers, sons, husbands, fathers and cousins who have committed suicide. Sharing my story to 20 other people who have been directly affected by mental health, was a cathartic moment. People out there care, speaking about mental health to empathetic people opened my eyes to the possibilities in changing the attitudes towards mental health.

We had all metaphorically overcome mountains in our lives. Using each other’s strength, it was time to literally overcome mountains.

Morale was high, and Team Falcon had a team comedian- Elanor!

Hike highlights included many livestock encounters too, which made the experience even more exciting.

The steep mountain ridges and stony terrain made the ascent of Fairfield more challenging. It was a huge achievement for the whole team to reach the top, it was down to teamwork and resilience. Thanks to Mind for saving my ears from the cold with the wonderfully warm hats!

During the hike, my nickname was the Duracell bunny because of my endless energy and positivity. My competitiveness drove me to run to the top of the summit.

The views were spectacular:

Descent sounded less vigorous that ascent. I stood corrected as we scrambled down rocks, and walking down countless steps.

We made it back to our hostel for dinner, to give us energy for the second half of our 24 hour challenge.

Head torches on.

The evening portion of the hike was certainly fun as Charity Challenge kindly set up an evening snack stop… glow sticks and neon face paint too.
Stars in the sky made the evening section of the hike even more spectacular, whilst gazing into the darkness I saw a shooting star and definitely squealed with excitement. After hiking for 18 hours, you become a little delusional.

Walking through fields of cattle, with our head torches lighting the way, was very amusing. They definitely looked like forces not to be reckoned with as their eyes glowed.

At 4am in the morning, the teams gathered at a pub where we could kick our boots off, and relax whilst watching jungle book. It definitely looked like a group game of ‘the floor is lava’, putting pressure on our feet was so painful that we hobbled. It was not long until we had to set back off, in order to reach the youth hostel for 8am and hit our goal.

The sunrise gave Team Falcon a new lease of life. It signified that the end was near, well timed with my headtorch batteries running out.

As Simon and I saw the finishing line, we decided to run across together- we could not wait to finish! However, I dread to see those photographs.
The mind team leaders were cheering us on, with prosecco and orange juice waiting for us.
I found a dog to cuddle too :).

The Mind Hike was an incredible experience, as I met so many inspirational people who had overcome significant difficulties. Using our combined strength, we successfully completed the challenge but also made friends for life.

Large animal vets, Day 1, 3.7.17

Whilst eagerly anticipating the first pre-booked appointment of the day, a farmer casually brought a pig in the back of his Land rover to the surgery – an eventful way to start my week of seeing large animal practice.
The piglet had neither eaten nor defecated for several days.
After the vet and I scrambled into the boot of the car, door held shut to prevent an escapee, I got stuck in straight away by putting my goat handling skills to use. After all, pigs are certainly not the easiest of animals to restrain, especially when the initial examination requires her temperature to be taken. I cornered the squirming swine, holding her still whilst she struggled, to enable the vet to continue with the health assessment.
The normal temperature range for a pig is 38.6 – 39.5 degrees Celsius. Here is an interesting fact, pigs cannot sweat so prefer the cold. Hence being pictured rolling around in mud, they are cooling off. Pyrexia may be a symptom of the immune response to an underlying condition such as an infection. The core body temperature increases in an attempt to fight the infection. The prognosis was that antibiotics, Metacam (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often described as a pain-killer although technically not a pain killer), fluids, and worming the pig would aid her recovery back to health.
Lots of injections meant a lot of pig wrestling… and a lot of noise!
Assessing dehydration through skin elasticity is a quick and simple test.
Alamycin LA was opted over Pen + Strep due to the 3 day duration, making it a long-acting antimicrobial injection.
Metacam is an NSAID. It works my inhibiting the enzymes (cyclooxygenase enzymes) that produce prostaglandins. This is the same reason there can be high risks if a person is not careful with drug combinations since prostaglandins protect the stomach and aid blood clotting. A combination of an NSAID and a steroid can have fatal results, including organ failure and internal bleeding.

The second appointment of the morning was surgery on a dairy cow who recently calved. During our journey to the farm, I was quizzed. “Do you know what a twisted gut is?”.
Cue the most ridiculous response “A stomach that is… twisted?”.
Left displaced abomasum is the correct answer, and I was on my way to assist a right flank pyloric omentopexy.
A vaginal examination confirmed that the cow had metritis from the discharge. Metritis is one of the risk factors for LDA as atony of the abomasum can result in the build up of gas. Therefore, the vet injected Pen + Strep. Also, the uterus displaces the abomasum during calving so failure to return to the correct place can result in an LDA.
I used a stethoscope to identify the ”ping” on the left side which locates the accumulation of gas in the abomasum which has caused it to displace. Interesting to hear something other than heart beats!

Preparing such a large surgical site was a new experience, especially with a cow under local anaesthetic kicking.
The vet made an incision into the cow’s right flank before locating the abomasum and inserting a needle to deflate! The abomasum is attached to the omentum so this is sutured to the peritoneal to hold the abomasum in the correct position. However, if the omentum tears, the abomasum has a risk of displacing once again.
It was a success.

A faecal egg count was waiting for me once I returned to the practice. I correctly identified that there were no worms on the slides! Great practice at the stud farm where I did regular faecal egg counts.
Soon after, another animal was brought to the surgery. This time it was a beloved pet hen with an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The vet used a needle and syringe to determine what the fluid was. Unfortunately, it was clear and the diagnosis was ascites caused by liver disease as a result of portal hypertension creating a pressure gradient. The clinical symptom which brought the hen to the practice was the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. Increased pressure in the portal blood vessels may cause protein-containing (ascitic) fluid to accumulate into the low pressure space which is the abdomen.

Sadly, the hen was put to sleep at the vets. However, I believe that this is the most humane way to euthanise a hen.
I then accompanied the vet to a livery yard, where I completed the paperwork for a two stage (preliminary examination and walk and trot in hand) pre-purchase vetting. During my time seeing practice at my local equine practice, I had witnessed a five stage pre-purchase vetting! The vet also took a blood sample to be sent off and stored. In stage 1, I used the ophthalmoscope to look at the lense of the eyes to see signs of cataracts forming.

Cronkshaw Fold Farm, A whole new meaning to crazy goat lady, 1.9,17

24 hours after touching down at Manchester airport, just enough time to recover following a hectic husky summer, I began a whole new adventure.

The 1st September 2017 will go down in my goat history. A monumental moment – the start of my first herd, I purchased two beautiful registered Golden Guernsey does.

After travelling to East Yorkshire a few days before I departed for The Arctic, I fell in love with Charlotte and Victoria. Whilst huskies filled the void for 6 weeks, the minute I headed to Rovaniemi airport I was eager to get my goats settled in to their new home without delay!

The day had come- Pete and I (ironic, I know) travelled to Yorkshire in his Land Rover with the trailer ready to transport my goats home.

DEFRA movement paperwork handed over, we were ready to go.

Seeing people’s faces as they passed the trailer was rather amusing. It is not every day that you see goats at a petrol station.

The inquisitive pair quickly settled in, after impressing me with their lead training skills. I was able to walk them through fields with ease.

I did not want to be apart from them for 12 hours, so I set up camp in their pen! Despite the smell, hotel GOAT gets a 9/10 review.

Spoilt goaties 🙂

Time will fly by, and I will be bringing my GG billy goat home before I know it.

After kitting their pen out with new themed buckets, I worked into the night to create their computer records. Including treatment records, weight graphs and payment + receipt worksheets. The husky documents in Hetta were a model example of how to maintain incredibly high welfare standards for animals on a farm. Complete medical histories, vaccination and de-worming schedules, treatment records, heat charts… the list goes on. I can adapt my newly acquired medical check skills to my goat herd in order to maintain the best health.


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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Moat Goats, 9.7.17-13.7.17

With my big trip to Finland coming up, it was time to travel by myself down to Pembrokeshire. After a pleasant train ride down to Shrewsbury, I picked up a Starbucks (mango juice of course), before heading to the Aberystwyth-bound train’s allocated platform.

I took the opportunity to begin reading ”Lean in” which is about female empowerment in the workplace.

Gyppy and Mossy enjoyed a car journey to meet me at the station. I was over the moon when they greeted me with excitement, remembering me from last time.

My little Freddo (not so little anymore) also remembered me! Deciding to move his sister, Foxy, to the bottle baby pen was a successful move. Fred was finally thriving, after a scrawny start to life weighing just 1.9kg.

After I was taught the altered feeding regime as a result of goat movements, and had met the kids born after my previous departure, I was ready for a third week at Moat Goats.

The morning and evening jobs consisted of topping up the hay racks, filling up the water buckets, bedding down the pens, and feeding the goats the correct amount of cake. The kids had ad lib concentrate in the creep feeder, meaning it was necessary to keep the level high enough to last until the next feed.

There was one extra challenge and he goes by the name ”William”. Learning from his mum, he dived straight over the water buckets to escape the pen whenever he heard a human voice!  Even funnier… this escapee didn’t walk, but jump.

It didn’t take long for the other kids to catch on. So chasing and catching 10 goats became the last step of the twice-daily feeds. The cunning animals jumped into the feed troughs when they were lowered, before jumping out of the pen. It becomes a game to them:

There was lots of hoof trimming practice too. Steph taught me the fishermans knot, to prevent the halter lead from sliding across the bar. It made the job significantly more efficient, with the goats tied in position. The kids took the opportunity to get a drink whilst their mum was still.

I treated any cases of interdigital dermatitis with engemycin spray. If the hoof began to bleed, I also sprayed it. I used the spray on William’s ear as he had a pink wound, likely from his daily escapee adventures.

Over the course of the week, there were a few bucklings to castrate and ear tag. As soon as anyone entered the bottle baby pen, a mob of kids jumped up and attempted to get on your back. I returned with lots of lovely bruises!

Once all of the jobs were complete, Steph and I sat in the pen to allow the kids to go crazy.

On Tuesday, the four of us quickly got through weighing all of the kids, vaccinating with Lambivac, and the oral coccidiosis drench. I caught the goats in their pens and passed them over to Steph, who placed them in the crate and Meg noted their weight to prepare the correct dosages and calculate weight gain. Damo treated the kids.

I used the administration gun to inject a few of the kids with Lambivac, sub cut. The drench gun was more difficult to use, but like injecting I am sure it will become easier over time.

Spending time with the kids I had delivered was a wonderful experience. They will become extremely cheeky goats when they are older…

Mossy and Gyppy got their special treatment too! They enjoyed their walk down to the fields and jumping in muddy water. 

On my last night, I even let Mossy sleep in my bed too… what a bad decision! Spaniel craziness kept me up all night, but I forgave her as it is Mossy.

On my last day, I walked up the slope to lead the goats to the area they needed to clear. They loved all of the browse!

Moat Goats, 6.6.17

In the morning I bottle fed a few kids to top them up from the previous evening before the haulier arrived to take the cattle to mart. We helped to load the cattle on to the wagon.

Later in the morning I injected two does with Pen and Strep as they were on a three day course of antibiotics due to kidding intervention.

Steph and I then constructed the pet kid/bottle baby pen. We tied doors around the hurdles as goats always find a way to escape through tiny gaps! As soon as I placed Foxy and one of the female triplets in there, they snuggled in the calf hutch together. The calf hutch kept them warm but also kept them out of sight from their mums who were soon to be moved into the opposite pens.

The goat and kid pairs that had bonded well from the single top pens were ready to move into the communal pens, separating the does from the doelings. First of all, the bucklings were castrated and all of the kids were ear tagged.

We mucked out the single pens in preparation for the goats due to kid any day soon.

The last job before I departed was to move hurdles in the main pen, to leave one large pen. The goats were jumping over, so there was a huge risk of injuries. Sadly, there was a doe half paralysed on the other side with Listeriosis.

Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes found in soil, therefore there is a risk of ingesting them in haylage. It is a brain stem disease that is also known as ‘circling disease’ as one of the symptoms is repeatedly walking in a circle. It can be mistaken for goat polio, which is a thiamine deficiency. However, pyrexia is not usually a sign of Polio but Listeriosis.

Other symptoms of listeriosis including stargazing, paralysis and lack of a palpebral reflex. This goat was paralysed on the left side, and we believe she had a stress induced seizure. She was given a larger than normal dose of pen and strep, to fight the infection. No pain relief or steroids were administered as this will strengthen the brain/blood barrier, meaning the pen and strep would be less effective. We also rolled the goat to prevent her becoming neurotic which is when muscle will breakdown. The antispasmodic stopped her from fitting, so we could move her into a pen by herself.

Fred cuddles allowed me to end my stay on a positive note! Not only did I learn a huge amount, but my love of goats grew stronger and I had a great time with the McNamara family.

Moat Goats, 5.6.17 

It was an early start to send 2 of the meat boys to the abattoir for 5.30am. They are sent when they weigh >40kg, so after selecting the wethers that appeared to be the largest, we weighed them before loading them into the livestock trailer. Along with the paperwork, the goats went to be turned into sausages. They can range from 5 months to under 12 months (as it is kid not goat meat), depending on their growth rate. They have a very happy life.

I had to check that Fred was okay after his melodramatic reaction after being castrated. So Fred cuddling was added to the morning jobs list. Hay, straw, water, food… cuddles.

Fred had recovered, there was a major improvement. So I held his mum still to allow him to suck.

We then moved the meat boys across the road away from their mothers, so they can be fed ad lib and fattened up. It was a three person job, with Meg using the EID tag scanner and noting their weights, Damo catching and weighing the goats, and I loaded them onto the livestock trailer from the crate.  Weaning consisted of checking the does’ udder and teats for any signs of mastitis or abnormalities. I then checked their milk, followed by dipping their teats in iodine. They will naturally go into a dry period as there is no stimulation to produce milk from a kid sucking or being milked.

The next big job was taking 11 doelings to the vet to be disbudded. In straw lined buckets, the kids slept throughout the whole journey. The vet worked quickly, enabling us to get the kids back to their mums as soon as possible.

Moat Goats, 4.6.17

In the morning, I fed the goats their cake and ensured that all of their water buckets and hay racks were full.

The time had come to castrate Fred! I found his testes and held them at the bottom of the scrotum before stretching the band on the elastrator above the testes but below the teats. I then castrated Albert and Roger. By law, castrating by rubber ringing has to be done before the kid is 7 days old. However, testosterone promotes the development of the urethra so the younger a kid is, the smaller the diameter of the urethra is so the higher risk of urinary calculi.

Once the castrations were noted on the kid paperwork, I got up to date with the ear tagging.

It was exciting to assist a doe expecting triplets, as I had only helped assist singles and twins before. The doe was straining for over half an hour, with a head presenting at times, so I gently pulled the kid out. I then went in for a second and third, and could feel more than two legs. I pushed one of the kids back to allow manipulation of a head and two forelegs forward. This was more difficult to pull out, as the two were trying to come at the same time. I felt that the third was in breech position so quickly pulled her out as they risk drowning in placenta fluids once the umbilical cord breaks.

Moat Goats, 3.6.17

I had an early start at 5.30am to bottle feed William, the buckling being rejected from his mother.

When it came to doing the morning jobs at 9am, a goat’s twin kids had escaped to different pens. We swiftly placed them back once we had worked out where they were. The doe was reluctant to accept one of the kid’s back due to her peculiar smell from the other pen. Fortunately, after holding her in place for a while so the kid could latch on, everything was fine.

Later in the day, a goat was struggling to give birth so I assisted the delivery of a single kid as her head was twisted. Therefore, I had another doe to inject with pen & strep for the course of three consecutive days to prevent metritis.