Series charting a week at one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales. A prize-winning herd of cattle is tested for TB, but what will the results mean for the farmers?
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This time on Vets 24/7,
an emergency operation drags vet Geraint out of bed...
-How are you doing?
I'm probably going to need a hand.
There's no intestine involved but it's very close to being involved.
..Ifan has to test a herd of cattle for TB...
-Don't inject me now, Ifan.
-Well, it'll be a first.
..and frisky Ianto the alpaca goes under the knife.
From Swansea to Neath,
and the pets that they treat, this is a week in the life
of one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales.
This is Vets 24/7.
For over 120 years, St James Veterinary Group
in South Wales has been responding to animal emergencies.
At the Neath clinic, a serious case has arrived.
Lily the Westie is in trouble.
She just started being sick an hour ago
-and she's been sick about three or four times.
Then she started shaking and then...
-OK. How old is she?
-She's just had eight puppies.
-She's had eight puppies, has she?
-OK, fine. No problem.
Practice partner Geraint Jones has to work fast to stabilise Lily,
who's collapsed whilst feeding her puppies.
I'll put a catheter in her leg and give her something to calm her down.
We'll take some blood at the same time and check her calcium levels.
Yeah, OK. Good girl.
Has she been a good mother?
Excellent. First time and eight puppies as well.
We'll put her on some fluids and just drip some calcium in,
assuming that it's a calcium problem,
because that is the most common thing.
We need to be quite careful we don't overload her with calcium
because it will affect the heart.
We'll just give her a very small amount now,
over a short space of time.
-She's going to need to stay in this evening.
-What about the pups?
Right. Have you got any milk replacement?
Yes, I've got two bottles and eight puppies.
I see. OK.
She's probably not in a position to feed them
as she's fairly critical at the moment.
All right, OK?
-We'll do our best for her now.
Lily's collapse has been a big shock for her owners, Angie and Patrick.
-She loves her dog and...
-She was like a stick insect.
I wasn't think of her. Stupid!
The nurses and doctors will take care of her, though.
Oh, she'll be all right, though. I hope so. She's got eight pups!
Lily will be transferred to the practice hospital in Swansea
to be monitored by the overnight staff.
The practice cares for all creatures great and small.
Being so close to the rural Gower Peninsular,
farm animals are a large part of the vets' workload.
Partner Ifan Lloyd is a farmer's vet.
Farmers are always characters.
They need to be characters to live with a job
that requires a 24/7 commitment.
They live in an environment where they have to work hard.
It's often a harsh environment, both to work in and economically as well.
Making a living out of farming is hard work.
This morning's appointment is at the Tuckers' farm.
It's a family affair as they have been farming here for eight generations.
They haven't been out before so they're excited.
They wonder what's going to happen.
Ifan's a regular visitor to the farm and today he has an engagement...
Got one in ready. Well done.
..with a bull, to put a ring though his nose.
Oh, Ifan's very good cos we've got his mobile number.
If we're in difficulties, we know we get preferential treatment,
in fairness to him.
This procedure is necessary as the bull will be used for breeding
and for safety reasons, it must have a nose ring.
I put a bit of local anaesthetic in there,
just like if you went to have a tooth out or had a filling with a dentist.
It's just through soft flesh, it's going, isn't it, Ifan?
Yes, just in front of the cartilage.
It's not quite a body piercing!
Make sure you don't drop the screw, Ifan!
You don't want to drop the screw and because it's soft,
if you cross-thread it, then that's the end of the screw
because it's got quite a soft thread on it.
That's perfect. I'm very happy with that. That's gone in well.
There we are. That's added some more value to the bull.
Well, absolutely right, yes.
In Swansea, at the practice hospital,
Lily the West Highland terrier has been recovering from her collapse
and has been monitored overnight by vet Ellie Bowen.
I've checked her bloods again this morning...
..and she's obviously done so much better overnight
and the bloods have definitely improved
since we saw her yesterday.
All the twitching and things have definitely stopped.
But her bloods this morning are still not 100%.
They are showing that she's a little bit low
so it just means that, because she's had pups so recently,
all the calcium has been diverted to producing milk and things.
The problem is that if we put her back with her pups now,
she'd be back in here and her calcium would go right down again.
So we just can't take the risk, as such a low calcium is fatal
if it continues without treatment.
We just can't take the risk of leaving her back with her pups again.
Hopefully, she should come back to normal and go home soon,
but it'll just be a bit more time until her calcium resolves.
Lily's eight puppies are only ten days old
and have had to be bottle-fed since her collapse,
so worried owner Angie has her hands full.
I was really, really upset
because I honestly didn't know what was wrong with her.
All I know that she was fitting so I thought she'd had a stroke,
because her head was to the side and she was walking like she was drunk.
..I was really, really upset. Really.
As a surrogate mum, Angie is feeding the pups round the clock.
It's more or less feed on demand but I try and get them
to go around about three and a half to four hours.
They're really gutsy.
This one is. She always gutsy.
She's so noisy and she starts them all off, she does.
And she always goes first so she may go to sleep.
The pups will not be reunited with their mum, Lily,
until her calcium levels have returned to normal.
Lily, do you want food?
There we go. Aw! No problem.
Next door, partner Geraint is about to operate.
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier, also called Lily,
has breathing difficulties.
To solve this, Geraint is going to remove
part of the soft palate in her mouth.
Doing soft-tissue surgery is fairly interesting.
It's quite different from medicine as well because you see...
Well, the owners see a sort of immediate effect with what you do,
so an opportunity to make a difference to the dog
straight away, really, which is good.
I think, generally, surgeons get a bit more praise than medics,
to be honest, from the client.
The dog's jaw must be tied open for Geraint
to gain access to the back of the mouth.
Basically, what we'll do, hopefully,
is resect this portion of tissue here.
This is the soft palate and this is the bit that's becoming inflamed
and is preventing the smooth airflow going down into the windpipe.
So what we're going to do is literally just clamp and cut
across this area here, just remove this portion here.
You can't replace the tissue you're taking off
and it's quite important we get the measurement
of how much we're taking off accurate, really.
Removing the soft palate tissue is a delicate and precise procedure.
Without this operation,
Lily could suffocate after exercise or in hot weather.
We're taking it to the back of the tonsil.
It's a bit inflamed at the moment, as you'd expect.
Once the inflammation settles, it should certainly help where we are.
The proof of the pudding is basically within the next sort of week or so,
whether we find that it's been sufficiently resected
to make a difference. So, yeah, happy.
-Let's go and pop her in. She's got a kennel, has she?
OK, that's fine.
Lily is moved to recovery area,
where Geraint will check she's safely coming out of her anaesthetic
before handing her care over to the nursing team.
It's a prerequisite of the job to like animals
but it's definitely a vocational job.
You've got to do it for the animals, the love of animals, really.
-All right, sweetie.
Gower is peppered with all sorts of farms and smallholdings.
And Ifan Lloyd has visited most of them in the line of veterinary duty.
We're going down to Horton first of all.
We've got a herd there - a herd of Charolais - or a beef farm,
with about 40 to 50 cattle to TB-test.
Testing for bovine tuberculosis is required annually
at any farm with cattle in Wales.
Father and daughter Louise and John Mumby
hope their prize-winning Charolais herd will pass with flying colours.
This is my old faithful, my Royal Welsh winner in 2006.
-Oh, this one?
Ifan is injecting two types of TB into every single cow in the herd.
It will take three days to see if the animal has a reaction,
so it's an anxious time for any farmer, as Ifan knows.
I think many farmers consider the TB test is a bit of a lottery
because they never know what the result is going to be.
It's a particularly stressful time for farmers
when they have the TB test,
because they do not want to be under restriction.
Well, the financial side of it is you're held up for 12 months
and you can't sell anything off the farm.
If it happens to be in the winter months of the year,
and you have to buy in extra stock,
and the welfare of the animals as well,
that is a big expense for the dairy farmers, especially.
Skin measurements of each cow are also recorded
to see if the animal reacts to the TB injections.
Don't inject me now, Ifan.
Well, it would be a first.
-And the last.
-And the last!
The first part of the test is complete,
but time is money for a modern vet. There's another job waiting.
They had time in the old days to have a cup of coffee,
but now they're always filling in forms
and rushing off to the next job.
Yes, that's right.
They're chasing their tail all the time so, unfortunately,
I don't drink so much Scotch any longer.
Ifan will be back in 72 hours to check the herd's results.
Not all pets like visiting the vets.
Reluctant pussy cat Bacardi is in pain
and his owner, Pam, is worried it could be a recurring problem with his pancreas,
so she has come to see vet Sarah Martin.
-Back in 2007, he'd had his pancreatitis, isn't that right?
-And he was quite ill then, wasn't he?
-He was very ill.
We nearly lost him and we don't want to go through that again.
I think it would definitely be worth running the haematology,
just to check on the levels of the blood cells.
With him being quite miserable, having a temperature,
it's worth keeping him in overnight and popping him on a drip.
I'm not cos because he normally sleeps in my bed with me!
I think he's a very spoilt little kitty, I'm sure.
They both are, believe me,
but I don't want to go through what we went through in 2007.
Yeah, I think it's the fact if he didn't have the history of being so ill before,
I think it probably is worth getting things now
and try to prevent any worsening of his condition, rather than waiting.
If he's been unwell for a few days, he's not getting better,
it probably is best for him, then.
-He thinks you can't see him now.
-I know, he's hiding!
It is the ostrich mentality, isn't it?
Hide the head and I won't know what's going on.
One night in a luxury place like this'll do you good, eh?
Right, Mr Bacardi, I'm afraid you're staying with us now tonight.
-Look after him for me.
-He's very precious.
Here she is.
Lily the Westie dog's calcium levels have returned to normal,
and so has she.
Come here to Mummy. Oh, my good... Oh, oh, oh!
-Ah, she's pleased to see you, isn't she?
-And her dad.
Full of the joys of spring now.
LILY WHINES Oh, I know, I know!
I know! Have you been good? Have you been good?
Ah, she's seen movement in the box there.
There they are. There's your little ones.
Oh, that's fantastic, isn't it?
Will she be able to feed any of them now?
I'd probably say not, to be honest.
It'd probably be better to get her into the habit of...
We're just thinking of the runt, just put the runt on.
-Which one is the runt, then?
-This one. This is the runt.
Oh, he's a bit smaller, isn't he?
And the little girl, this one.
As long as it's just those three puppies, we should probably be OK.
Let's have a look, then.
We'll just check their palates are OK
and also check them for hernias as well.
-And their eyes...
-Their eyes are starting to open as well.
I just noticed that because we were starting to worry
but only that one and she's Screecher,
the noisiest of the lot of them.
-She starts and they all start.
He's half asleep. He hasn't even noticed he's been picked up!
Brilliant. OK, so, that's fine.
So that's a success story, hopefully.
-Yes, hopefully. When she calms down.
Everybody's been so worried about you, haven't they?
There's a new kid on the block in the farming world...
They're renowned for their fine wool and good temperament.
At Ingrid Batcup's smallholding,
Ifan has arrived to lend a helping hand to fellow vet Amy Teal.
It's not easy working from the back of a car on a windy day
like today, because everything will get blown away!
Today, three-year-old Ianto is the focus of the vets' attention.
He's going to be neutered,
because owner Ingrid doesn't think he has breeding potential.
What we've done is separated these boys out
because they're not suitable for stud,
so, unfortunately for them, they have another option.
Good boy. There we are. Excellent job.
It might be better to hold his head.
Alpacas are quite used to being laid on their side, aren't they,
-cos that's how they're sheared.
-That's right, yeah.
It's never going to be as sterile as it would be
if you had the luxury of being in an operating theatre
as with small animals.
Ianto has been given a local anaesthetic
so he won't feel a thing,
and it's a surprisingly quick and simple procedure for him.
-So this is the testicle.
It's not something that we sort of have to do routinely,
-either, is, it, alpaca castrations?
I quite like goats actually.
I think they're really charismatic creatures.
Well, we know now to send Amy out on all the goat calls.
Yeah, I've kept that from you.
Yeah, I didn't know that.
Best job in the world when it's not raining!
It can certainly be the best job in the world but it's never the worst.
That looks good.
Ianto is now free to join his fellow alpacas on the farm.
Back at the practice hospital, Bacardi is undergoing further tests
for pancreatitis with vet Sarah Martin and nurse Shelley.
But it's not going to be straightforward.
Bacardi has been here before.
All right, all right. There we go. All done.
We need to get a catheter into this cat.
By the way, we're restraining him. We're not hurting him at all.
He's not liking it but, then again,
he's not liking having the catheter in,
so it's either one way or the other with him, unfortunately.
Hopefully, one day, he'll be able to see that
what we're doing is for the good.
Basically, what we're doing
is placing a catheter into the vein in the front of his leg.
We're going to give him some fluids.
He was very, very ill a few years ago with pancreatitis,
which is inflammation of the pancreas.
That can make them very, very ill.
They get really ill with it and it's very painful as well.
So he's quite lucky he made a very good recovery from it.
Unfortunately, not all cats tend to.
So, by giving him this medication, hopefully it should encourage him
and we're trying to tempt him to eat some food overnight
and to get him back eating again
as I think that's the most important thing.
As his owner was saying earlier, he's a greedy cat.
So if we can get him back eating,
that's going to show he's feeling a lot better in himself, then.
Right, Mister, shall we get you into bed, then?
Sarah's hunch was correct. Pancreatitis was confirmed.
But, with medication, Bacardi made a full recovery
and was able to go home.
Lily the Staffordshire bull terrier
has recovered from her throat surgery...
There she is.
..and Geraint can hand her back to her owner, Mrs Blewitt,
with no more breathing difficulties.
Wait. There's a good girl.
So the anaesthetic's worn off?
Yeah, the anaesthetic's worn off so she's basically fine.
She's probably due to have a pee this morning, actually.
Did she drink and eat something last night?
Yeah, she had some food last night without any problems.
She had some water as well.
Oh, dear, dear. Pouting now, are you?
Are you pouting? Aw.
So she's not on any medication at this point in time, is she?
She's going to go home on some anti-inflammatories for pain relief,
and some antibiotics as well that you can just put in her food.
The antibiotics can start this evening.
-Desperate to jump off there!
Yes, she's, she's...
A vet's life is full of highs and lows,
and at times it can be stressful.
Geraint has found his own way of dealing with this.
A bit of boxercise!
You need to escape the job,
otherwise you'd be there most of the evening,
working into the night on other people's problems.
There's always something to do in a job like ours
so it's nice to have a good... Well, it's important, it's healthy
to have a good work-life balance, really.
It's really good to come to a session like this
because the pressure of work sometimes gets to you
and you need to sort of let it all out.
So it's a good way to let off a bit of steam after a stressful day,
combined with a bit of dance music, which I'm really passionate about.
It's an awesome workout as well so, yeah.
The practice never sleeps. It's staffed 24 hours a day.
It's 2am and Beau, a cat, has been brought in
with a life-threatening injury to his stomach.
So he's currently quite stable in himself as well.
He's not showing any signs of shock or anything.
He's had an unexplained accident and his intestines are exposed.
Oh, good boy.
Vet Sarah knows he will need emergency surgery.
It needs to be done now. The quicker we get to it, the better for him.
Obviously, if there's been a lot of skin ripped away,
it's going to make it harder to close afterwards.
We also need to check whether we're going to need
an extra pair of hands in there.
He's missing quite a bit of skin here, too,
which might complicate things.
Hello, Geraint. It's Sarah here.
We've got a cat in with an abdominal rupture
and I'm concerned about the amount of skin
that's left to close it back over.
I've not really repaired one of these before,
so I might need a hand with it.
Time is of the essence, so Sarah starts before Geraint arrives.
-How are you doing?
I'm probably going to need a hand.
There's no intestine involved but it's very close to being involved.
I've just not had one of these.
That's OK, Sarah. It's fine.
-Have you seen any of these, Geraint?
-I've seen a couple, yeah.
Geraint has to check that there's no damage to the cat's internal organs.
It always amazes me how much you can just take organs out,
sort of fiddle around with them,
pop them back in and they manage to sort themselves out afterwards!
It's actually quite lucky it hasn't perforated its stomach.
Happy everything's fine, Geraint uses a saline solution
to flush out the cat's abdomen
before he can stitch the stomach back together.
It's difficult being presented with something
you've not dealt with before in the middle of the night and...
It's always nice to have an extra pair of hands.
It's always good to have a second person there.
-What you don't want is for it to open back up, I guess.
We could put a zip in as well.
That would be quite trendy, wouldn't it?
He should make a full recovery, to be honest.
Hopefully, with some antibiotics, some pain relief,
we should be fine now, which is good.
So, a very lucky cat.
Beau recovered from his overnight life-saving operation
and was discharged after a short stay at the hospital.
It's three days since Ifan performed the TB test at Horton Farm.
He's back to check the herd's reaction.
This is a big day for the farmer.
If we do identify a reactor animal,
then that has two significant effects.
One, that animal will need to be removed from the herd,
which means, basically, slaughter.
And, secondly, the farm is placed under a movement restriction
until such time that they have two clear tests.
Ifan needs to compare the thickness of the skin now
to the measurements taken on his previous visit.
This one is 109. 109 is...
Do you want to get that big one out?
The test results are a matter of life or death
to the Mumby prize herd.
This one, she won the Royal Welsh in 2006,
so to have her progeny taken away, if she was a reactor,
or even an inconclusive, it's not nice.
We don't want any of them gone
because we've put a lot of time, effort, money to build the herd up
to get what we want, and to get the type of animal that we want.
OK, that's clear. That's clear.
They can go out, then.
But the ordeal is not over until the last cow is checked.
He's got two quite significant...
..reactions here, Louise.
Ifan is concerned he may have detected a TB reaction with the cow.
He has to double-check his results.
-He is fine as well.
-That's a clear test for you.
That's what you want to hear, isn't it? Fantastic news.
When it's all clear, it's a big weight off everybody's mind.
We can carry on farming as we always do.
Are you going to open a bottle of white tonight? >
Sure am. You going to join us?
Ifan understand farmers because he's one himself.
As well as being a full-time vet, he also runs a smallholding,
breeding prize-winning Ryeland Sheep.
Daddy, there's one ram and 14 girls.
And his daughter is learning the ropes.
And when are they going to have little lambs, do you know?
-End of January.
-Is that the one?
-That's your favourite sheep, Helen.
Oh, Helen is a little bit lame, isn't she?
-Do you like feeding lambs on a bottle?
And I don't really like them when they get born
because they don't look very nice.
No, they're very wet, aren't they?
Yeah, and they have some red stuff on them.
Yes, but then the mother licks that off, doesn't she?
Yeah, but that's just disgusting!
Well, I enjoy working with farm animals as you've gathered
and, yeah, I'd like to be a farmer
but I think now I've reached the stage of life that I'm at,
then unless the children were particularly wanting to be farmers themselves,
it's unlikely I'd go into farming full-time.
How good is your dad being a vet? >
Very, very, very, very, very, very, very good.
Well, thank you very much.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
This series follows a week in the life of one of the largest veterinary practices in South Wales. For over 120 years St James Vets have been treating all creatures great and small from their branches in Swansea and Neath.
In this final episode, an emergency operation on an injured cat drags Partner Geraint Jones out of bed. Partner Ifan Lloyd has to test a herd of prize winning cattle for TB, but will the results bring bad news for the Royal Welsh winning farmers? And Ianto the three-year-old alpaca goes under the knife.