Julia Bayly | BDN
By Julia Bayly, BDN Employees •
November 1, 2018 6:37 am
Anybody who raises animals is all too conversant in this one reality: When it comes to animals, if it will probably occur, it is going to.
Simply ask Anne Gobes, Southport alpaca farmer and president of the Maine Alpaca Affiliation.
“A few years ago we went out and saw one of our males had stuck his nose in a hole [and] was checking out a porcupine,” Gobes stated. “He ended up with quills in and on his nose.”
Moderately than name in a large animal veterinarian that makes a speciality of camelids — the household that features alpacas, llamas and camels — Gobes and her husband stored their cool, rolled up their sleeves and handled it themselves.
“We held him very carefully and pulled the quills out,” Gobes stated. “He was pretty good about it and seemed happy to be relieved of those quills.”
An at-home remedy with some antibiotics and the curious alpaca was no worse for the shut encounter with the porcupine.
Like large animal owners everywhere in the state, the Gobes take care as a lot of the routine well being care and the less-serious medical remedies of their flock of 22 alpacas themselves, calling in a large animal veterinarian solely when an damage or sickness has exceeded their talent set.
For animal farmers just like the Gobes, taking care of as a lot of veterinary wants as safely attainable onsite simply is sensible when it comes to time and expense, since it may value a whole lot of dollars to schedule a home name.
Getting the vet to go to a farm is by far the simplest choice for the owners, however Gobes stated there are occasions she has no selection aside from loading up an injured or sick animal — with an alpaca journey buddy, as a result of solo journey creates extreme nervousness in alpacas — and drive almost 100 miles to the animal care facility. It’s a selection each farmer has to make sooner or later, she stated.
“We do the day to day [health] maintenance ourselves,” Gobes stated. “Once a month we give them shots that prevent meningeal worms. We also do our own nail trimming. And while we have them in our hands for that, we check them over to look at their eyes, their teeth and get a good sense of how they are doing.”
Meningeal worms are a parasite of animals like alpacas that may get into the backbone or mind and ultimately kill the animal.
There isn’t any official definition of a large animal veterinarian in Maine, however in accordance to Dr. Michelle Walsh, state veterinarian with the Maine Division of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Large animal vets are veterinarians who historically take care of meals animals like cows, pigs, goats and sheep, fiber-producing animals, just like the alpacas or llamas or work animals like horses, donkeys and oxen — all animals which might be extraordinarily troublesome to transport to a standard veterinarian workplace setting.
“There is no size cut off on animals that define a small [animal] vet versus a large [animal] vet,” Walsh stated. “There is a [United States Department of Agriculture] accreditation program that divides veterinarians into two categories.”
Class one, Walsh stated, are veterinarians who deal with pets or so-called companion animals like canine and cats. Class two, she stated, is everybody else who treats any meals animals, horses, birds and different unique pets.
Walsh’s workplace maintains an inventory of training large animal veterinarians in Maine, and stated when she up to date this previous spring, there have been round 50 veterinary practices from Presque Isle to Portland that provide providers for large animals.
Traditionally it’s arduous to know if that quantity has modified drastically through the years because the record was not begun till 2012 and has not modified a lot within the years since.
Is there a scarcity of large animal vets?
About 10 years in the past farmers and different large animal owners have been expressing concern over a scarcity of large animal veterinarians, Walsh stated.
“For a few years people were insisting we did not have enough,” she stated. “The state spent a lot of time looking into this question.”
From her perspective, Walsh stated it appeared that the state does have an enough variety of large animal veterinarians to meet present wants, however the geographic distribution of these practices can imply some owners are at such a distance from a large animal vet, accessing that care might be troublesome.
That’s the case on the Gobes farm the place the closest large animal veterinary hospital is a 90-mile drive a method in Monmouth.
A needed talent set
It’s the identical for siblings Carrie and Holly Whitcomb who increase and milk a herd of 200 guernsey and Jersey cows on their Springdale Farm in Waldo.
“In general it’s important to have a [medical] skill set of your own if you are going to have large animals,” Carrie Whitcomb stated. “Especially on a farm like ours, you need to have those skills.”
The Whitcombs grew up on the household dairy farm and Carrie Whitcomb holds a level in dairy science.
“We’ve had quite a bit thrown our way here on the farm so we really can do a lot of our own troubleshooting with the animals,” she stated. “I can’t imagine getting into [dairy cows] with no experience [because] calling in a vet for every little thing would be very hard and expensive.”
Most large animal farmers study the essential expertise wanted to care for their animals by means of first hand expertise or working with different, extra skilled farmers till they get the grasp of issues. College of Maine Cooperative Extension workplaces additionally supply workshops on animal care and lots of veterinarians are glad to share their information.
For the Whitcombs, a few of these these expertise embrace understanding what to look for in a cow that signifies it’s not feeling nicely like discoloration or fluid within the eyes, unfastened stools or modifications in consuming patterns, how to correctly feed for the totally different seasonal circumstances all year long, how to administer required vaccinations, how to deal with cow-specific circumstances like hypocalcemia, extra generally often known as milk fever.
In milk fever a pregnant cow experiences a speedy drop in calcium within the physique shortly earlier than giving delivery. If left untreated, this metabolic dysfunction can lead to the animal going right into a coma and ultimately dying.
By understanding the indicators of milk fever, dairy producers just like the Whitcombs can start remedy lengthy earlier than it will get critical sufficient to name in skilled assist.
“We pretty much handle the delivery of baby calves ourselves and give the cows the vaccines they need,” Carrie Whitcomb stated. “But the most important thing we do is taking good care of them [because] preventing them from getting sick is the bigger goal.”
Calling within the professionals
Eventually, there might be a medical problem that’s past the talent units of even the most savvy of animal farmers, and that’s when the large animal veterinarian is known as in, bringing the experience and gear merely not out there on most Maine farms.
“If we have an alpaca that is limping or had been in a tussle and got injured, rather than drive the 90 miles to the vets, we wait for the veterinarian to come to us,” Gobes stated. “They will come and they can bring travel X-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment.”
There are additionally occasions when the Gobes are not sure if an alpaca is pregnant so they’ll name ask the vet to come to the farm with an ultrasound machine to run some exams.
And whereas the Gobes are snug amassing no matter fecal samples are wanted to examine for parasites, these samples are despatched out to the vets for testing.
“It really comes down to your skill level and training and what you feel comfortable doing,” Gobes stated. “For us, we are comfortable with the daily care and the only reason we call in the veterinarian is for an injury that we are unsure of.”
Points with calving are the most widespread causes the Whitcombs name for veterinary assist.
“If a cow is having really hard time calving or if there is a really off the wall injury that needs stitches, we will call,” Carrie Whitcomb stated. “But we are really lucky and have a really good working relationship with our veterinarian.”
Thanks to that relationship, Carrie Whitcomb stated there have been many occasions she has been in a position to describe over the telephone the difficulty dealing with an animal, clarify her remedy ideas and get the inexperienced mild from the veterinarian to go forward and proceed.
“I’ll tell them the situation and what I am thinking of doing and they vet will be like, ‘OK, fine, that’s just what I’d do,’” Carrie Whitcomb stated. “So there are a lot of situations we can avoid having them come out.”
Modifications in drugs
Dr. Janelle Tirrell is an equine veterinarian at Third Coast Equine in Palermo however spends most of her time on the street visiting her two and four-legged shoppers.
“Equine care has changed a lot in the last couple of decades,” Tirrell stated. “It used to be we were art of that ‘fire engine’ world called in only in big emergencies when a horse was dying.”
Nowadays, she stated, equine veterinary care is extra about preventative drugs.
“Like today, I was out working on one farm looking at a horse’s teeth, doing fall vaccines on other farms and talking to owners.”
When these emergency calls do are available, Terrill stated they’re most typically about colic or a horse that has acquired lacerations in a struggle with one other horse or falling.
“It really depends on the owners,” she stated. “Most of my clients are pretty well educated about their animals and take care of things early themselves rather than waiting until it gets really bad and calling for help.”
And necessary relationship
The connection between veterinarian and large animal proprietor is vital when it comes to deciding when, or when not to schedule a go to, in accordance to Gobes.
“Everything we do with our animals is in conjunction with our vet,” Gobes stated. “We can call and ask their opinion and thoughts [because] they might not want or be able to come out if it’s not an emergency.”
That relationship may even contain small animal vets, Gobes stated, as some practices are prepared to fill prescriptions written by a large animal veterinarian if that saves the proprietor some drive distance and time.
Veterinarians also can advise when and when not a shopper ought to go it alone, Carrie Whitcomb stated.
“There times when it is important to have a vet come out,” she stated. “With dairy cows there are a lot of strict rules when it comes to certain medications that we can and can’t use ourselves and have to get a vet to administer them.”
Rabies vaccines, for instance. It’s authorized in Maine to get hold of the vaccine from an over-the-counter provider and administer it and not using a veterinarian.
However that’s not all the time the best choice, in accordance to Walsh.
For the animal to be licensed by the state to have been vaccinated towards rabies, the serum have to be administered by a licensed veterinarian, Walsh stated.
Regardless of doing as a lot cow care as she will on the farm, Carrie Whitcomb stated she does welcome the repeatedly scheduled month-to-month visits from the veterinarian, an choice many farmers selected. Many large animal veterinarians like to make a month-to-month trek out to their shoppers’ farms to look over the animals, speak to the owners and talk about any ongoing points.
“He comes in to look things over and, while he’s here we can ask them specific questions or to look at a certain cow,” she stated.
Terrill has numerous shoppers she visits recurrently yearly, simply to examine in and see if they’ve any questions or considerations or simply need to chat about their animals.
“That is the opportunity for me to look at the horse and ask the owner questions and they can ask me questions,” she stated. “People are really missing out if they don’t take advantage of things like that.”
Getting care the place and when it’s wanted
Finally, Walsh stated her division needs to ensure that each large animal producer within the state has entry to wanted veterinary care.
“Whether there is a shortage of [large animal] veterinarians is not a straightforward issue,” she stated. “Part of it depends on what kinds of animals and where they are located and part of it depends on whether the owners are able to pay the costs to have the vet travel that distance.”
Elements of the state, together with Washington, Waldo and Hancock Counties have been recognized as areas underserved by large animal veterinarians in accordance to nationwide standards, Walsh stated, as a result of they’re so distant from the animals who may have them.
As such, any perceived scarcity of large animal veterinarians within the state is a little bit of a numbers recreation, Walsh stated. Whereas there are numerically sufficient vets to take care of the farm shoppers in Maine, they don’t seem to be unfold out over a good geographic space.
Meaning a shopper in Waldo might solely have to drive 30 minutes to entry a large animal veterinarian whereas a farmer in far northern Washington County could possibly be taking a look at an hours-long journey.
That journey distance can imply vets wanting to apply in these areas could possibly be eligible for extremely aggressive federal funds that assist repay scholar loans.
“It’s one way to encourage vets to move into those areas,” Walsh stated. “Maine has had at least six awardees.”
Walsh stated she and her employees spend a whole lot of time speaking to farmers about their animals’ wants.
“It’s important in a state like Maine that values its agriculture producers that the have the services they need,” she stated. “It’s hard enough to be a farmer but even harder if you have a health issue you can’t handle on your own and don’t have the availability of veterinary services.”