Monday, February 09, 2015

The Flip Side to Hobby Farming

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2 puppy shots and 1 penicillin shot for a sick turkey

I can't tell you how many times I've been told, "I'd love to have your life on a farm and enjoy all of these animals!" A lot of people who have never experienced farm life think it is filled with cute animals and happy moments. It often is! It is a lot of fun! However, there is another side most do not even consider before they jump in with both feet. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I love my life! I am constantly challenged to step outside my comfort zone, research, and learn new skills. I read vet manuals and scientific research papers. I seek out and learn from professionals as well as long time back yard enthusiasts. I've learned how to trim hooves, dehorn, castrate, sew stitches, perform minor surgeries, do injections, start IVs, read mucous membrane to tell parasite loads, prevent and relieve bloat, and do my own fecal exams after making my own floatation solution. I can spot when birth is imminent or days away. I have a good knowledge of the use of many chemicals and medical preparations. I know what hypocalcemia is and how to use calcium gluconate by IV or injections to correct it. I know how to tell when a freezing cold rabbit kitten (aka kit or baby) is dead or still has a chance. I know how many strains of coccidiosis there are and also know the conditions that make it flare up on my farm. I also know how deadly it can be and how to stop it in its tracks. I know how to give an autopsy and determine quite a few causes of death. I know which diseases are communicable to humans and between other species. I've been hobby farming for 20 years in June and am still learning and gaining new skills. I seek out new skills to learn because it keeps it interesting.

Some of the farm life is very tiring, like around the clock care for sick animals. Some of it is stressful, like seeing your goat's kid not presenting well and worrying you will lose both the kid and the $600 registered goat. Some of it is disgusting, like pulling bot flies out of a rabbit's skin or putting your hands in the goat to push the baby into the right position. Some of it is heartbreaking, like making the call to euthanize an animal who has fought so hard but is growing weaker and suffering more. Sometimes those decisions stay with you for days. Some of the animals you grow fond of leave a mark that takes a long while to get over. 

Vets are wonderful resources, but they can be expensive and are not always available. Most of them like to leave the simpler things to the competent animal caretaker to free them up to handle more serious issues. That's why they will teach you so much if you have a good working relationship with them. Through the internet, I am connected to a group of vets from all over the country that willingly give their time look at pictures and information sent in from farmers to help them learn and treat their animals. Seeing the wealth of information they collectively share, I'd be willing to pay for a membership, but they freely share it. That tells me they genuinely care about the animals and the farmer. 

If you truly care for your animals, you need to acquire as many skills and as much knowledge about caring for them as you can. If you are going to give the very best care as soon as possible to your livestock, you have to be willing to embrace all of it no matter how challenging or repulsing it is. The fun days and heartbreaking days are all a part of it.