A few of my favourite things: Cows, cheese and wine

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery is possibly one of my favourite places to visit on Vancouver Island. With toddler in tow, we headed up for a morning of fun. It's always nice to take off my "veterinarian's hat" for a few minutes and just enjoy being around animals. 

I've always felt that knowing where one's food actually comes from is so important. I buy local if I can and try to support small businesses. The dairy industry has taken some big hits recently and criticism for animal abuse. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks is a SPCA certified farm. So what does that mean exactly? Well, they have to meet some pretty high standards as well as pass on-site inspections. 

Check out the BC SPCA's website for a list of SPCA certified farms.

Look for SPCA certified signs!

Look for SPCA certified signs!

Something pretty special recently happened at the farm. They installed a state of the art robotic milking machine! Robotic milking machines have been around for a while, but you don't see them very often on small scale operations. So what the heck is a robotic milking machine?! Well to put it simply, it allows the cows to milk themselves when they feel full! Many also have the technology to monitor the cows of mastitis (infection of the mammary gland). All of which equal improved animal welfare.

Is it my turn yet?!

Is it my turn yet?!

Giant brush in case the girls have an itch they need scratched!

Giant brush in case the girls have an itch they need scratched!

You can really get up close and personal with these girls. They are some happy cows! It's been shown through numerous published scientific studies that happy cows produce more milk. Seems like a win win to me.

Happy cows!

Happy cows!

Now we certainly can't forget about the cheese. At Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, they produce the cheese on site. You can also sample any of the cheeses before you buy. Be warned though, you may want to buy them all!

Making cheese.

Making cheese.

Glorious, copious amounts of cheese!

Glorious, copious amounts of cheese!

Now for the wine connoisseurs out there, don't forget to check out their fruit wines. Apple is my absolute favourite in the summer months. The neat thing is, their flavours change with each batch they make, so they are different all the time. Construction is currently underway for an outdoor patio for their new cafe! (I literally cannot wait)!

Next time you are in the Qualicum area stop by and check out the farm. See what happy cows look like, and use it as a fabulous learning experience for your kids!

*Haven Veterinary Services provides small animal mobile veterinary services in Nanaimo, Lantzville, Nanoose and Ladysmith.*  

Goats and fungi and forests oh my!

One of the things I love about living on Central Vancouver Island is that there is always a myriad of little adventures to be had.

Fall and winter is one of my favourite times to visit Coombs Country Market. With most of the tourists gone for the season it allows for a slower pace to browse and enjoy. A visit to the market is never complete without checking out the goats that make up the famous “goats on the roof”. The wee man found the goats especially interesting this visit.

After Coombs we headed off to the Heritage Forest in Qualicum. This wheelchair accessible trail through the forest is great for fido and strollers (not that wee man actually sat in his stroller)!

The forest was particularly tranquil that day and there was lots of exploring to be had!

Fungi seem to be in full “bloom” this time of year and I got to thinking about my days working emergency when we would often receive calls about possible mushroom ingestion and concerns about toxicity.

Most mushrooms are not toxic to animals, but some are deadly. The hardest part is identifying the fungi (well for me anyways)! The most common toxicities are due to mushrooms in the genus Amanita (which cause 95% of all human mushroom fatalities). Signs of toxicity can take as little as 30 minutes to occur or up to days depending on the type of shroom ingested. Initial signs could include gastrointestinal (vomiting and diarrhea) or neurological (disorientation, falling over and tremors) and can rapidly progress to seizures and death if not treated promptly.

If your pet has ingested a mushroom, what should you do? If there are any left, collect a mushroom and place it in a paper bag and refrigerate until it can be identified (usually by a mycologist or fungi expert). Seek IMMEDIATE veterinary attention. Veterinarians can safely administer an emetic (drug to induce vomiting). This is best done within 30 minutes of ingestion. Keep in mind, when using an emetic usually only 60% of the stomach contents are brought up.  Your veterinarian may recommend supportive care (intravenous fluids, activated charcoal) and close monitoring of bloodwork to monitor blood glucose, liver and kidney values.

So enjoy your forest walks and hikes, but be aware that there are some mushrooms that are best left growing out of old tree stumps!