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The UK is gripped by the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping across Europe, but for me it’s almost business as usual. As a busy mixed practice vet, theservice my colleagues and I provide to our local community is essential.

Spring is in the air and, around Yorkshire, it’s also in the fields and hedgerows as snowdrops give way to daffodils and the fields become full of sheep with lambs in tow. There’s skipping and playing and wagging lambs’ tails as they suck, hungrily on mum’s milk, getting bigger each day. The days are getting longer and warmer as winter recedes. I spend plenty of time on these country roads and it’s crucial to have a vehicle that is comfortable, capable and fun to drive. The Outback is all these things and it’s seen me through the worst of the snow, ice and later the floods that winter threw at us.

But springtime on the farm is the busiest and so my car, if anything, is putthrough its paces even more at this time of year. There are a multitude of sheep to be seen and not a day goes by without me seeing a ewe in trouble, struggling to give birth, or a sheep suffering from another obstetrical issue. Only this morning the phone was ringing, well before eight, with an anxious farmer and a ewe which was going into labour, so itwas an early start. It was a reminder that problems occur at any time of the day or night. Time is always of the essence, so my Outback has to perform as efficiently as I do, even before breakfast! Its large boot is filled to the brim with my kit - wellies, waterproofs and gloves, lambing ropes and lubricant, syringes and medications. It’s a real workhorse as well as being a car for the family.

Spring is also the time of year when cows are giving birth, so if it’s not a sheep that needs my help, it’s often a cow. There’s new life everywhere. More unusually, I had another emergency this week, which was completely different to the usual springtime calls. It was not a native species, but it still needed assistance. This patient was more at home in the high Andes than the green and pleasant slopes of Nidderdale, arguably the wildest and most varied of all the Yorkshire Dales. My alpaca patient, Cosmo, was not admiring the view. He was suffering from a severe case of colic. This is a nasty condition where the abdomen becomes extremely painful and there are lots of reasons, ranging from constipation or spasm to life-threatening twists of the bowels. Cosmo’s owner told me the story as I arrived at the farm. He was lying down and unable to move, so I had to face a bit of off-roading before I could put my veterinary skills to the test. The grassy field was sloping precariously and there were ruts and boggy bits which I carefully avoided.

Needless to say, I made it to the alpaca’s side without a problem. I examined him all over, inserted a tube into his stomach and listened to hisinsides. It sounded like there was a party going on inside, causing pain and an easy diagnosis of spasmodic colic. Painful as this was, the cure wasa simple injection and within minutes, Cosmo was feeling much better. He rose to his feet and trotted home to the farm.

Meanwhile, my next job was to savour the drive back to the practice to await my next call, wondering what other challenges this year’s spring would bring me and my Outback.

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