Despite the fact that I haven’t practiced large animal medicine since graduating from vet school in 1990, I had a great time working at the new Miracle of Birth Center at the State Fair this year.
I’ve practiced small animal medicine from the start and have only dabbled in large animals with an occasional equine or wildlife emergency. Other that that, I’m pretty cloistered in my warm and dry suburban, multiple doctor, small animal practice.
But, to do my part for the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), I signed up to work a shift at the new Miracle of Birth Center. Now, I’m sold; I’ll be there every year!
The new building is large, clean, and well-arranged to allow the maximum number of visitors to see the animals up close or on high resolution monitors. Even from a dis tance I could watch a ewe giving birth to triplets on the monitors. The area for those who work there; the FFA kids and veterinarians, is spacious and clean with nice restrooms and a large room for equipment and snacks.
With great pride, I attended th e official opening and ribbon cutting on the first day of the fair. There was a huge crowd just waiting to get in and within the first 2 hours the animals cooperated with newborn piglets, lambs, and a calf!
On Labor Day, I started a morning shift at 9am. I met the veterinarians and students who staff the Center. I was pleased to learn that Senior veterinary students work at the center as one of their clinical rotations. What a great opportunity for students to assist in multiple births and work on their skills communicating with the public!
I was posted at a pen near the entrance with 3 ewes and 5 lambs. I was a bit worried at first; would I be knowledgeable enough in large animal medicine to answer questions, assist the animals, and represent our professions well? With a brief review, I learned that the lambs in my pen were 5 days old, all born at the fair, and were Polypay (all white) or Polypay/Suffolk crosses (white with brown freckles.) One ewe can have twins, each from a different sire. Ewes identify their offspring by scent and call to them if they can’t find them.
The questions weren’t all that hard; mostly, “How old are they?” “How much do they weigh?” “Is that a boy or a girl?” But the most commonly asked questions was “Can I pet it?” So, I lifted a lamb into my arms, carefully holding the hooves to protect anyone from a kick, and marveled at the delight in all who touch a real lamb, many for the first time. Young and old, every ethnicity, city folks and former farmers reached out to touch a lamb. “It’s so soft!” they all said.
This is what veterinary medicine is all about for me; making a connections with strangers, at a very soft spot in their hear, through the universal love of animals. I felt honored to represent our profession and to show the world a part of what we do. I hope the experience that people had at the Miracle of Birth Center encourages people of a greater variety and backgrounds to consider the rewards of a career in veterinary medicine, especially in large animal practice.
I had such a good time, I ended up staying until 4:00 that afternoon! My arms were still sore 2 days later from hoisting 20 pound lambs for 6 hours, but I’ll be there again next year.