Too often on social media these days I see claims that farmers don't care about their animals, that they are "only in it for the money", that they are "exploiting animals for profit" etc.
Well as a vet and farmer, I have to say that it couldn't be further from the truth. Even if you do look at it from a purely profit point of view, it makes zero sense to treat your animals badly or compromise their welfare in any small way. An animal that is not being properly cared for will not be nearly as productive as one that is.
Then on top of that, add in the fact that no farmer in their right mind is in this game without a strong connection with their animals and the land. We all want what is best for the animals under our care, and those animals are in the fortunate position of being looked after by experienced and knowledgeable people.
As a vet, welfare is top priority on our farm. This is a 'code of conduct', so to speak, that I have grown up with: back in Yorkshire my mother breeds racehorses. They always come first! Christmas morning at home involved all hands on deck, with everyone chipping in to feed and muck out the horses before we were allowed a mouthful of breakfast! It was quite a task, sometimes with up to 20 stables to muck out and my older brothers weren't the most efficient of poo shovelers! But it gives you an indication of how ingrained animal welfare is in my upbringing.
Now I find myself on a bull beef farm on the other side of the world, but those values still ring true. I'm sure that, at times, my husband would have found more value in marrying an accountant! However, he knows that when he has a sick bull he can bring it straight in, or take me out to the paddock, and it will receive veterinary treatment within hours. That has to give me some extra brownie points right?!
I take a huge amount of pride in being able to identify a health problem and help to solve it. Sometimes we can't...but we always try.
Recently, we brought in a weaner bull (approximately 6 months old) that had separated itself from its herd mates and was looking weak. We used our little trailer to bring him home to my horse stable where I could examine him properly.
The most obvious clinical sign was that he was very dehydrated, so I placed a naso-gastric tube down his nose, so that I could safely give him electrolytes straight into his stomach. He was teeth grinding (which is sign of pain) and had some increased chest effort when breathing, so he also received some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.
Over the next 5 days we continued stomach tubing with electrolytes, plus additional pain relief and antibiotic cover. The boys helped me to tube him and hand picked grass to try and tempt him to eat. My brother in law, who is also a vet, gave him a once over and agreed with what we were doing, so we decided to carry on, as he was showing slight signs of improvement, even though he still wasn't eating.
On the sixth day we put him out in the paddock, under our shady apple tree, with a bucket of water nearby. In the afternoon I went out to check on him and he was up and wandering around eating grass! It absolutely made my day, and when my husband came home later that evening he told me he was thrilled to see him eating, too!
It's moments like these that give you a boost in a job that is often not only hard work, but mentally taxing too. I hope that in some small way, by sharing this, people can see that farmers really do care about their animals. If it was all about profit, then he would have received a lead bullet in the paddock when we first found him. Veterinary care and drugs are expensive, and there was no guarantee that he would pull through – but we always give them a chance.