Foal season has begun here at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine! While that means that we get to care for lots of cute foals during their first weeks on Earth, it also means that we have lots of overnights coming up.
I was lucky enough to really hone my overnight skills at a dairy barn and a large animal clinic in Vermont during all 4 years of my undergraduate education. I quickly learned that the large animal world does not always run on what is considered a “normal” daily schedule, and the early morning hours are fair game to get things done. Here are some “tips of the trade” that I have learned in the large animal world of overnights and early mornings.
- Fuel up! Our bodies are not designed to be awake through the early morning hours. Personally, I know that my body throws its metabolism into overdrive during overnights. Bring some healthy snacks with you! I am a huge fan of oatmeal with peanut butter for those chilly winter mornings. I am convinced that some food’s indulgence scale is multiplied during overnights. Leftover burritos may be just OK on a normal weeknight, but a leftover burrito at 1 AM on a February night of foal watch is close to magical.
- Stay warm! I think that our internal clocks also change our temperature regulation at around sunset. By the time midnight rolls around, it is easy for me to feel chilled to the bone. The solution? Wear layers. Lots of athletic skintight layers are great. Heavy jackets help a lot for those early mornings milking dairy cows. Be sure not to neglect your fingers and toes. Being up at 3 AM milking cows can be turned very sour when your fingers are throbbing with cold and your feet are soaked due to your ancient boots that you repaired with tape (Confession: I’ve been there!).
- Set your alarms BEFORE the shift starts! I have found that it is not a good idea to rely on my sleepy mind to remember that I have to feed a horse at 2 AM. It is just not a good idea when there are lots of other patients in the hospital. I set my alarms for treatments, especially small treatments, before the night gets going. Also, if your alarms are set, you can catch some quick shut-eye when you have the chance!