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.”