Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Long overdue...

Northumberland National Park, England

Twin Scottish Mule lambs
You can't say I didn't warn you!  I fulled admitted at the start of this Blog that I was making it b/c I'm such a horrible correspondent!  Studying for my first round of exams was my initial excuse for not posting in a while, but then, I don't know, "things got busy."  As we all know, things are ALWAYS busy, though, so from here on out I'll try to post more regularly, even if they're short and not so eloquently put together!

Well...I passed!  I finished my Animal Body 1 module and am now wrapping up Animal Body 2.  While AB1 was filled with cellular biology, anatomy and histology, I've now moved on to the fun of immunology, bacteriology, parasitology and virology.  It's a good chunk of material and exams are yet again right around the corner, but hopefully I'm staying on the ball!

Brian got a job over here, which was fabulous news!  He's working as a "physio" (UK for physical therapist) for a great clinic and is 1/2 way through his acupuncture certification.  It's super nice for him to now be figuring out his routine over here, too!

Over Spring Break was the real fun of lambing season!  While sheep farms are few and far between in the States, you can barely look at a field without seeing sheep in the UK.  So while to most of my classmates lambing was old-hat, for us foreigners it was completely new.  We are required to complete 2 weeks of lambing experience as part of our Pre-Clinical Extramural Studies, so last month I set off to England and quickly got my hands...arms...and shoulders dirty!
Delivering my first lamb!
Mom and both lambs alive and well!
 My wonderful brother-in-law helped get my lambing placement set up with his cousins' family's farm, and for this I am eternally grateful!  Myself and my dear friend, Sabrina, got to stay in our own little stone cottage rather than shack up with a stranger, and we were certainly working on, as we liked to call it, "the Disneyland of farms."  Situated in the hills of Northumberland, we spent our days zipping through fields on four-wheelers making sure no ewes (female sheep) were having problems, bottle-feeding the orphaned lambs, and taking in the sights!

Our converted cow-barn cottage on the farm property!

My first castration victim!  He's not thrilled but still liked me enough.

Tube-feeding a lamb that refused to suckle.  You have to make
sure you get it down the right pipe so you don't drown them!
Whenever a ewe was having difficulty (if the lamb was too big, or it was coming out just head/one leg/butt-first) we'd get to glove up, lube up and go sort it out.  Sabrina, who was initially adverse to all things to do with reproduction, quickly accepted and I think enjoyed it!  In the end we managed to go through quite a number of our shoulder-length gloves and have some wonderful memories.  One of our proudest moments was delivering the Monster Lamb.  It was 3x the size of our week old lambs, and we both left the field with massively bruised hands since the pelvic canal wasn't big enough for both the lamb AND our hands.  Our dear shepherd couldn't get his man-hands inside, either, so Sabrina and I had to use our teamwork and ingenuity to tie a rope around the tangled feet INSIDE the uterus, to then pull it out.
Both of these lambs are less than 24 hours old.  Sab holds a mini-lamb  while I hold our
Monster Lamb! We felt very sorry for that poor ewe!

It wasn't light-hearted all the time, though.  We had one traumatic experience where a ewe with a hung (stuck) lamb decided to jump into the river on our watch.  As soon as she made the leap we both looked at each other, acknowledged that the water was deeper than our wellies and took the plunge.  Trying to pull a 140lb animal out of the river while your boots sink into the silt turned out to be a much harder challenge than anticipated.  We also realized how much we overestimate our strength.  When our efforts led only to exhaustion, we took turns holding the rear of the sheep out of the water so to not drown the lambs! Somehow we managed to claw (literally!  Our frantic boot and fingers marks were left at the scene) ourselves onto the muddy bank holding this sheep, and then deliver her lambs.  She made multiple attempts to return to the river throughout this process, but we were ready for her!  It was physically and emotionally draining, but it was also really nice to see Sab and I both spring into action, formulate a plan (albeit not the best of plans, but it eventually worked!) and then work together to save this sheep and her lambs. That evening ended with a much needed cry and some red wine.

This is how one gets zoonotic diseases!
Our boy "Brim" (our husband's names, Brian and Tim, combined.)  He's quite the cheeky little lamb!  We later decided naming lambs after our husbands wasn't the best of ideas, since we unfortunately had to have Tim 1, Tim 2, Tim... and the husbands don't much like it if we name them without first checking to make sure they're not girls! :)

Over the weekend the farmer and shepherd let us take some time off to explore Northumberland (it's the area in northern England, about 1.5 hours northwest of Newcastle.)  Brian and Tim were able to make a trip down to spend the weekend out of the city, seeing the farm, and fly-fishing.  We drove along Hadrian's Wall for a bit of a history lesson, too.
Brian even took part in bottle-feeding the troops.
Re-enactment at Hadrian's Wall
For the next few weeks I'll be in full-on study mode, but then, as of June 1st, will have completed Year 1!!  I'm really finding it hard to believe that I've already come this far.  I'm still loving Scotland and loving the course.  I'm looking forward to the summer, which is filled with more Extramural Studies with different species and also a nice long visit from the family.  I hope everyone is well!  Send updates from time to time if you think about it!

Promise to write again soon!

'nuff said