Explore the blog, Then Check out our website

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Chicken Scratch Poultry

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Country Vet - Emily Smith

I've invited my cousin Dr. Emily Smith back to the blog once again.  I really enjoy hearing her stories and I know a lot of you also do, I hope she continues to visit us from time to time.  I know she's a very busy lady with her veterinary business in Albion IL and I thank you Emily for taking the time to share with us.

Thank you to Chicken Scratch Poultry for letting me be a guest on their blog. I am Angie's cousin and I am a veterinarian in southern Illinois. One of the nice things about being a veterinarian in a rural area is that when you wake up in the morning, you never know what you will do that day. I worked in a predominately large animal practice for the first 10 years of my career and now I own a predominately small animal practice. We still do a few cows, sheep, goats and pigs but small animals and horses make up the bulk of what I see now. Twenty years ago, almost every house in the country around here had some livestock. It seems as the “old timers” have quit farming, a lot of pastures have been turned into fields for crops. It is understandable, but sad to see those little farms go by the wayside.

Some of my favorite clients to visit were an older couple (I will call them Elmer and Thelma) who had a little bit of everything. They had a few cattle, a handful of pigs, one old horse, and a pair of sheep. All of these animals had names and they were treated very well. Thelma also happened to have around 300 chickens. Only a few of the chickens had names but she loved all of them. They had built them a large building and made it into a really nice chicken coop. They had large fenced area for the chickens but Elmer was constantly leaving the gate open so many of them were free range chickens during the day. She was selling eggs and had herself an “egg route”. She would deliver eggs locally and even had one day a week where she ventured into the suburbs of a large nearby city to deliver eggs. I have no idea if it was legal, but Thelma did it. Elmer and Thelma were very frugal and lived very simply. One day my boss came in and said he saw Thelma in a used but newer Cadillac car. When he asked her about it, she said she had been saving her egg money and bought herself car. She said “When you take care of your money, it's amazing to see how it stacks up.” I should have listened to Thelma's advice.

I never had to doctor any of the chickens, other than occasionally dispensing wormer to them. It was a good thing the chickens were healthy because we were taught very little about chickens in vet school. They were considered a minor species (along with goats and sheep) and very little time was spent on them. Once when I was on call, Thelma phoned very early in the morning to tell me they had a cow that was having trouble delivering a calf. I arrived and found a big calf trying to come backwards and with only one rear leg present. I didn't feel it moving and told them it most likely would be born dead. I had to struggle to reach the other leg and get in a position to pull the calf. I had to use a device called a calf jack to help deliver it. When it was out, to my surprise, I saw it's heart beating. It was alive! After a good deal of rubbing and sticking a piece of straw in it's nose to make it sneeze, it came around. We stood back and let his momma clean him up and Thelma said softly “It's another miracle.” I said “Yes, I didn't think we could get it out alive.” Then she explained to me that it wasn't a miracle that we got it out alive....she had always had faith that I could deliver it. She meant that life itself was a miracle. She said just because it happened everyday didn't mean it wasn't a miracle. Once again, I learned a lesson, taught by an old woman on a chilly morning on small farm that I didn't learn in school.....don't take miracles for granted.

Thelma and Elmer both have passed away and their little farm was sold. I drive by sometimes and see a few cows in the pasture. I hope those cows have names....it would make Thelma happy.

Have a Great Day
Dr. Emily Smith

1 comment:

  1. As a vet school classmate of Dr. Emily's, I can attest to the fact that were were not much practical information about chickens. Mostly we saw dead chickens for necropsy after disease, and were taught (if anything) to be large producer poultry vets. I have learned more about chickens in the 18 months we have had a backyard chicken operation than I ever did in school. My husband and I hope to meet Angie in the next few weeks or months to add some interest to our flock.

    Thanks, Em, for talking about Thelma and Elmer. That story reminded me so much of my four grandparents, who were all farmers in Kentucky.