Mixed animal practice may not be for the faint of heart. I enjoy livestock and most times I feel like livestock enjoy me. You can really get some perspective on those late night calls, just you, a cow and possibly the farm manager. On a beautiful March night in rural Southwest Nebraska, where it was cold as could be but the stars in the sky were as bright as ever, I found some answers to why I would like to continue with mixed animal practice until I am not able to do so. At first, I was a little miffed that it was 1 AM and I was 7 months pregnant and out in a pasture all by my lonesome. The farmer was coming back, I mean he didn’t leave me alone out there for long, only to get hot water. The reason for the water was because I was elbow deep in a uterine prolapse of a beef cow. As I am grunting and pushing in this large prolapse with the down cow’s legs frogged behind her for leverage, I thought to myself this is ridiculous. Then I got an epiphany. Any person who has worked to replace a prolapse knows that it is an art form. When you start to make progress, it is a very rewarding thing. I mean you go from this train wreck, disgusting thing at the start to a perfectly wonderful cow/sheep/goat in the end. It is the journey to the perfectly wonderful cow that takes some work. So there I lay on the ground, perhaps it was the way the fetal membranes glistened in the moon and starlight, but I thought to myself, “I can’t imagine doing anything else.” I was also thankful that my arms had strength left at the end. I see a prolapse much like my life in practice, it takes a little work but when it is all said and done you end up back to where things should be.
Not all farm calls are so enlightening. Sometimes you try to not get kicked or ran over. Sometimes your help might not be so helpful at the time. I met my husband on a dairy farm and he was afraid of needles as I am giving an IV to a cow. Sometimes you need a rope or a chute when things are not going quite as well as you want. My own mother got yelled at because she wouldn’t help me pull a calf when my father wasn’t around. All she had to do was hold the tail. The mix of this daily life makes me smile. One of my favorite times as a child was pulling pigs late at night- just me and my childhood dog Gizmo. Gizmo was a decent midwife and good company in the farrowing barn at midnight. When things don’t go quite as happy as it could one time the next time you could be laughing watching 11 baby piglets nurse on the sow knowing all your hard work paid off. Maybe the sow tried to bite you, the donkey you were about to geld is a kicker, or the bull doesn’t want you lancing his abscess. Today is a new day, not like the one before and likely not to be duplicated.
Farm life has been a part of me since I can remember. My two children are growing up on a farm. I want them to know that work isn’t something you have to struggle through. If you decide to raise llamas, then raise them as well as your children. I may not have all the answers to every livestock question you may have, but I have been though quite a bit. Several practices with different environments in rural areas keep me waiting for the next rodeo.