Today I returned to the veterinary practice for the last time, marking the end of my week on placement for this module. Miles travelled this week brings the total up to 555 miles for the module – and today certainly featured a lot of mud (and worse) and (veterinary) medicine.
To start the day I headed out with one of the vets to read TB tests that had been carried out on Tuesday. I felt like I was in ‘All creatures great and small’ as we drove through the Antrim hills in a Land Rover that had enough supplies to qualify as a roaming veterinary practice! TB testing has to be carried out annually, and is a huge source of stress for farmers, who know if one of their herd reacts they face the prospect of having to cull cattle and further rigorous testing before they are allowed to sell cattle on from their farms. (Link to document on the control of bovine TB in NI – http://www.bovinetb.info/docs/Bovine_Final.pdf ) We visited two farms, one a dairy and one for beef, where all the cattle older than 6 weeks were injected with avian and bovine TB on Tuesday and today were checked for any differences in the resultant swellings. Both farms we visited were given clear tests, which was obviously a huge relief for the farmers. On explaining what I was doing, (aside from writing down the results, staying well clear of the crush and attempting to slip n slide my way across the slotted slurry tank), they responded that ‘sure a farmer dis’ney go to the doctor’, and one went on to explain how they waited three days before going to the doctor after sustaining an injury. Neither would leave it that long to seek help if one of their animals was showing signs of distress!
We headed back to the practice for lunch, where I saw a dog get a growth removed from its paw and walked/looked after/played with an adorable Andrex puppy!
I soon learnt that heifers have unexpected pregnancies too, when a farmer arrived in with a heifer he had been trying to sell only to find out they thought it was pregnant. Sure enough, the vet confirmed (and not by a blood test – more of a bum test whereby she was left in no doubt of the result) that the heifer was over 6 months pregnant. That cow was barely out of the crush before another arrived, this a cow that had become lame. It transpired that it had an abscess in one of its hooves, which was cleaned and dressed before the other toe had a special shoe fitted to it (made to measure – Cinderella the cow?!) to take the pressure off the abscess – essentially that toe is given a high heel (someone did tell me cows are real divas!). I feel like I should revise my list from day 8 to include another challenge of working with animals being the real hazard of getting kicked – here’s hoping not too many of my future patients bite or kick me!
My time at the vet’s is over, and I’ve picked up a few things (and not just puppies and kittens) about life in a rural community. I have the utmost respect for what vets have to do as part of their work, and the environment in which they do it – I will never complain about an air conditioned hospital being too cold, having stood testing cattle in a stiff Autumn breeze (literally mild compared to winter ice and snow!). The chance to meet some more farmers and hear about their priorities has given me more of an understanding of the issues they face, but I feel that their perception that their own health is not a priority is something that needs to be urgently addressed. While I’ve enjoyed my time at the veterinary practice, I don’t think I have a) the muscles or b) the resolve (I’d take everything home with me if I could, from calves to kittens) to work as a vet and so I’m looking forward to getting stuck back into medicine after this module.