My two months in Vasen

The past two months were very motivational for me, and it would probably take pages to explain the magnitude of the positive impact I got from being at the farm and working with animals and great people – but I’ll try to stick to the basics. Important changes and realizations regarding my interests in science, work prospects and life preferences took place while I was there, conducting my study on calf behavior.

When it comes to science, it was an incredible experience to actually conduct a proper scientific experiment for the first time. I was amazed at how much one has to and can learn for the experimental process. Every moment is useful: frustrating moments where you consider giving up, or when you think of improved sampling solutions midway through your data collection and wish you’d have thought of that in the beginning. Good moments where your results respond to your expectations, and great moments where you get new ideas for more experiments while sampling. Indescribable moments when the animals you collaborate with seem to enjoy your presence and your interactions with them.

I also came to realize that, if possible, science is what I wish to do in my life. I feel that I am made for the scientific process: tinkering my mind for ideas, reading through tons of literature to learn about all the interesting findings of other researchers, designing an experiment, going through a period of time dedicated to focused data collection, then sitting down and trying to make sense of all the data that was gathered. Perhaps discover something that could be of use to the world. Perhaps not, but then trying another route. Discussing with brilliant colleagues and getting even more new ideas. Yep, I’m up for that kind of job!

One very important aspect that I verified is that I want to work with farm animal welfare and behavior. Cattle, if possible, as I am in love with these animals. At Vasen, I was also given the opportunity to do some voluntary veterinary work, and deepen my knowledge on cattle medicine and behavior. It is a fact now that I want to work with animals, in the sense of, at least partly, actually do hands-on work with them. Thus, being at the farm and doing this experiment helped me at least set some broad limits to what I’d like to research and/or work with after completing the Master’s program. It is a sort of relief knowing where and what to focus on when this critical time arrives.

Aside from figuring out work and science-related questions that I had in mind, I also established that a) working with animals makes me feel balanced and happy, b) working with different farms is a very rewarding experience, both in matters of job satisfaction and of learning and c) living in a small town near nature is definitely better for me, compared to a city. I also realized that being happy with what I do in life has a very positive impact on how I feel as a person and how I interact with the people closest to me. So, feeling good at work is apparently very important for my well-being.

Of course, during all of this thought-provoking, self-realizing period of time, I had some excellent support and collaboration with Vasen’s wonderful people, my supervisor, and my family and friends. So I want to make a proper mention of a rather long list of people who contributed to my advancing one step further towards my life goals:

  • THANK YOU Vasen! Kjell and Ingrid, for having me at the farm, for treating me like family and for letting me learn through diagnosing your animals! Johanna, for being my connection to everything at the farm, a huge assistance to me when learning about cattle, a source of inspiration and a fantastic company! Thank you to all the incredible staff at Vasen for making me feel more than welcomed and assisting me every time I needed help: Armen, Benjamin, Berith & Per, Ceci 1 and Ceci 2, Johanna, Lawrence & Mia, Niklas, Nver, Viktor – and everyone else whose name I cannot recall because I am terrible at learning names (please do message me and let me know so I can add you to the list)! And thank you to veterinarian Susanne Lundin for discussing veterinary incidents at the farm with me and broadening my knowledge on a number of subjects!
  • Thank you so very much to veterinarian Johanna Habbe for connecting me to Vasen, for supporting and inspiring me to be an even better veterinarian!
  • A huge thank you to my supervisor, Matthias, for all his support, precious advice and guidance throughout this project! Also, for the excellent management during all the times I was stressed over the limit.
  • My most loving thanks to my partner, Henrik, for supporting me and listening to my endless enthusiastic cattle talk every single day, for cheering for me, helping me move to and from the farm and for visiting me. The same loving thanks to my parents who have believed in me since day 1 and have done all in their power to help me achieve my dreams. Also, for constructing the awesome experimenting apparatus Matthias designed – thanks dad! 😀
  • A very big thank you to all my classmates from the Master’s for helping me out in whatever way they could when I was looking for a farm, and for being supportive and kind at all times. Same goes for those outside the Master’s who have been there and listened to me or offered their encouragement and help! 🙂
  • A very special thank you to my former workmate Marie for doing all she could to help me look for farms in Östergötland in the beginning of the project! This also goes to all of Fröstorp’s staff and veterinarian Ole Martin Hegrestad, who helped me learn a great deal about cattle and have always been helpful and encouraging. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t spend one year rich in experiences at the farm. Special mention to Peter and Sławek, having been the closest to me together with Marie, assisting me through my road to understanding and handling cows.

Well, to sum up: Working with animals is fantastic. Doing science is incredibly rewarding. The best choice in my life so far was to become a veterinarian and do a Master’s in animal behavior. The people that surround me (more or less familiar) are responsible for a great deal of my happiness, and for making my work choices and efforts worth even more.

Ah, what an unbelievable two months that was. Now, on to the next phase of the adventure! 🙂

Today’s vet farm news

Our coliform mastitis cow is stabilized, but still in quite a bit of pain. She has finished treatment with trimethoprim-sulfadoxine and was now prescribed treatment with penicillin, which I suspect was suggested due to a rising A. pyogenes infection (which I just now saw changed name again to Trueperella pyogenes). She was also given calcium intravenously when the farm’s veterinarian visited yesterday. Today she received one more injection of meloxicam to combat pain, and has been up and eating, even though she had some difficulty standing up. At least she has no fever today (38,1°C – slightly hypothermic, when I checked her).

One cow with placenta retention has been having high fever for a couple of days, ranging between 40 and 41°C. Yesterday she was given oxytocin and ketoprofen, and today she began treatment with penicillin and one more injection of ketoprofen.

One of my testing calves, very active and loving 999 was very ill with diarrhea yesterday morning. She had slight fever (39,5°C) and was promptly given an electrolyte mix with an esophageal tube, as well as an injection of meloxicam. Later when I checked her, I saw that she also had respiratory disease, having affected the lower respiratory system as well. I recommended treatment with penicillin for the little calf, seeing as how her condition was not good enough to battle two problems at the same time. Right now, most of the calves are going through a viral upper respiratory disease with cough and some clear or purulent nasal discharge. The good news is that this morning she was up and happy again, with good suckling reflex, already better respiratory rate and not as profound diarrhea! Here she is, suckling on my finger 🙂

Little 999 feeling better

Today’s observations – Data collection complete

1000 completed her data set today, and with this sampling day, data collection is now complete! The calf preferred the odorized and the tasty teat in today’s testing.

This was an incredible two months (plus one week) of data collection: working with newborn calves, getting to familiarize with them, following their preferences in my tests and loving them incredibly much in the process. 🙂 One of the best experiences in my life!

A general summary of the data, as well as a more descriptive text on my experiences here will be posted sometime in the next week. Again: big thank you to Vasen Dairy Farm and to Johanna Habbe for making this happen!

 

Today’s vet farm news

The past few days we’ve had another incident of acute mastitis caused by E. coli infection. The cow is not doing very well, with two quarters of the udder being infected, painful and very swollen, and she’s milking small quantities of watery fluid for the time being. She currently has mild hypothermia (37,6 °C) due to lack of appetite and most likely hypoglycemia, but fortunately she is drinking a lot of water by herself. She is being treated with meloxicam and trimethoprim-sulfadoxine. Supportive treatment in the form of intravenous fluids and electrolytes can also be valuable in acute mastitis from E. coli. A very good article on the treatment of this and other forms of mastitis is available at the online version of The Merck Veterinary Manual.

Today Johanna and I treated two calves with burst abscesses by washing the abscess pouch with strong iodine solution and applying penicillin ointment. One calf had an abscess located under the skin surrounding the carpus – the joint is unaffected and the wound should heal fast. The other calf had an abscess under the skin surrounding the navel, also without any signs of further infection to internal organs. Both calves are otherwise happy and well, very active and well-fed 🙂

 

Today’s observations

A few of my calves were sick with diarrhea today, but only one was unable to participate due to illness. Only four calves left to test tomorrow! Two calves completed their data sets today.

Summary

Odor test: 3 of the 6 calves preferred the plain teat, and 1 preferred the odorized teat. One calf showed no preference for either teat, and one calf preferred both teats equally (by the second!).
Taste test: 2 of the 6 calves preferred the plain teat, and 3 preferred the tasty teat. One calf showed no preference for either teat.

Data collection complete this Friday!

This Friday the 19th I am completing the data collection for my master’s thesis. It has been two very exciting and interesting months! I am both happy and quite sad that this phase of the experiment is soon complete. Happy because I’m very much looking forward to continuing with the second part – the statistical analysis that will produce the results of my study. At the same time, I really enjoyed staying at the farm, working with animals every day, surrounded by very kind people and by nature. I was also able to do important veterinary practice and enhance my knowledge in cattle medicine. This is only a short “thank you” to the people of Vasen Gård – a longer one will be posted as soon as I’m back home. 🙂

Thank you, Vasen!

Farm kitty
One of the cuddliest farm cats joining me in today’s experiment – one of the many times he has followed along!