Dairy placement: Just kidding, 7.11.18

All experience is good experience 

img_4016

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

img_3998

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 

img_4003

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

img_4020

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:

img_4011

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

img_3535-1

“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

img_3534-1

“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

img_3533-1

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

4. BRAINY GOATS

img_3539-1

“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

img_3537-1

“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

img_3540

“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

img_3538-1

“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

img_3536-1

“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

img_3530-1

“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.

img_3532

“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.”

Fleur’s story: Always go for your dreams

FLEUR

img_3396-1

ALWAYS GO FOR YOUR DREAMS

IT STARTED WITH GOATS

img_3381-2

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

A NEW JOURNEY 

img_3401-1

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

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

CHALLENGES MAKE YOU DISCOVER THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF 

img_3397-1

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

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

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

THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN UNEXPECTEDLY 

img_3402

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

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

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

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

img_3399-1

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

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

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

YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT 

img_3400-2

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

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

FLEUR

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Farmerfleur365