The Anatomy of a Farm Call

This week we had our standard, yearly vaccination and checkup farm call. What is a farm call, you ask? A farm call is when the vet comes out to your farm, so that you don’t have to haul all your animals into the clinic. On our farm, those animals getting vaccinated are the two horses and four dogs.
Farm calls kind of stress me out. They shouldn’t, my animals are either trained to stand nicely for the vet, or are actively learning to do that, so realistically it’s not a huge deal anymore. But past experience means I worry. Let’s step through how I prep, get through, and de-compress from a farm call, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you with your vet visits too! Or you will laugh at my obsessive over-planning… both are totally fine!

So, like anything in life, prep is key. I always, always try to make sure I am on the farm, and off work about an hour before the vet is scheduled to arrive. It sounds silly, but you are providing the location for your vet visit, you want to give yourself enough time to make sure it’s set up the best for your pets. For the horses, I pull out their favorite gear, like Nellie’s worn out, slightly too tight halter that she loves so much, and I make sure to have some major happy rewards standing by. My girls both love sweet oats, peppermint cookies, and Nellie loves her blue brush, so those are always set within reach. I’m sure you already know, but it’s always good to make sure fences, equipment, etc., is all safe and functioning before the vet arrives, too. While we hope for the best, prepping for a bad day is better so you aren’t caught off-guard.

When prepping with the dogs, I make sure they’ve had time to go outside and work out the crazies, go potty, get some water, and relax. My pooches are all kennel trained, and if they get nervous seeing the white truck, they have been trained that they can go chill in their space until they are needed. Since I have both small and large dogs, I make sure to have a clean table for the vet to use, and a clean floor space as well. Our back porch and picnic table work for this, but anything that is safe and easy to setup will work.

I know you lovely folks are all smart enough to know this, however I would be remiss if I didn’t say: DON’T LEAVE YOUR SMALL DOG ON THE TABLE WITHOUT BEING RIGHT THERE. Small dogs strongly believe they can fly, but have not developed the necessary wings during their more recent evolutionary adaptations. And a final preparatory note, it’s always helpful to have another person or two, depending how many animals you have. Especially with large animals, it’s immensely helpful to have all hands on deck. I am very lucky in that I had three extra sets of hands for this visit, so things went super quickly. I was able to have someone always getting a handle on the next critter in line, someone monitoring or spoiling the animals who are already finished up, and I could just interface with the vet and current animal in question.

A very worn out Nellie Belle

So, how did the day actually go? It went great! Best farm call yet. Realistically, this shouldn’t surprise me as I have wonderful critters and an unusually amazing set of vets. This particular call saw our Dr. Kurt come out, he’s newer to our farm but has proven to be a hoot to work with and very patient. I am forever impressed with how much Nellie grows in between each vet visit, each time she calms herself down much quicker, and the danger level decreases.

Nellie is really our wild card right now. She is the only one who is absolutely, wholly, vehemently against farm calls. She does not like new people, she really doesn’t like vaccines (which fair, no one likes shots), and she finds the whole standing still thing absolutely obnoxious.  The first vet visit after she came home, I genuinely thought one of us was going to end up in the emergency room, and I cried most of the night after because “what if I can’t help her?!”. But we’ve been working really, really hard, and Miss Nellie only minorly freaked out this time. She did spin, and threw her head and tried to get away, but she calmed herself down and, for the most part it, was a successful experience. She is highly food motivated so we are trying to associate her favorite snacks with the vet, and we are hoping the excitement of yummy snacks will eventually outweigh the scariness of a stranger with a needle (not to say I blame her, I would also panic a little).

I usually try to do Nellie first, simply because I know from experience that if she sees what’s happening ahead of time, she will build it up in her head and cause a much bigger deal, and I also know the rest of my critters are farm call veterans and seeing Nellie upset won’t bug them. If she set off the other animals, I would probably swap orders, so I can’t tell you for sure “do your craziest animals first”, that’s got to be a judgement call.

I also focus on one area of the farm than the other, so horses first in the corral, then dogs on the porch, that way the process goes much quicker and when that subsection is finished, they can go back to normal, which makes post-vet cleanup easier. Your vet will also tell you if they need specific changes, like a shadier spot to prevent sunburn, or someplace where the truck will fit easier so they can set up. This will also dictate what order and how quickly you can get things done.

A Sleepy Post-Farm-Call Scooby

After the vet is finished up with an animal, I try to get them back to their normal as quickly as possible. The horses are immediately fed cookies and let back out in the pasture, and the dogs are allowed to roam the house again, whether they want to go hide in their dens or munch on some food or lay in the sunny window. The biggest rule is that the animals get the day off on farm call days, so no riding, no training, lots of cuddles and relaxation.

It’s also worth noting that with some vaccines come side-effects, so it’s good to ask ahead and be ready for that if you can, but definitely at least asking the vet at the time of injection what to expect is a good idea, because, for example, my pack was all a little sore and grumpy after their suite of shots, and I was warned there might be minor cold-like symptoms, which kept me from freaking out when Scooby was not feeling well.

Another note, your equipment, leashes, halters, treat bins, all of that is going to end up everywhere, so plan a few minutes post visit, when all your lovely critters are settled in, to walk around and put everything back in its home, file your paperwork, and take a quick inventory. It’s also worth noting that this is a perfect time to quietly celebrate to yourself, and take note of things that could be improved on from this visit.

Phew, we did it! That’s the basic run-down of a farm call on my little place. I definitely spend a lot of time thinking about, planning for, and admittedly stressing about vet visits, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by the results. Luckily, they aren’t super frequent.

The final tips? Make sure you like your vet(s), make sure you have a plan, even if it goes sideways, a plan facilitates preparation, and overall, make sure you give credit to the critters who are about to have a stranger poke and prod them, get all personal, and them leave. They deserve all the patience and understanding.

Until we chat again, my friends!

A very rare, very blurry picture of a sleeping Joe