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Running the goats

Nursing student's farming passion echoes health-care future

Student Life

By Marcia Porter

It’s not every day in the School of Nursing that a student announces to her classmates she’s just sold a goat.

Christina Oliver, a fourth-year student in the bachelor or nursing program, might just be the first.

No wonder she’s eager to share the news: The five goats she’s sold in total are helping to cover her tuition fees during her final few months of nursing school.

And though she now has five less goats, the 21-year-old student and part-time farmer goes home to The Goulds every evening to a large and diverse family of four-legged critters.

She owns six pigs, an adopted cat, three family dogs, a baby llama, two calves and a number of goats.

Christina Oliver and Beans the pig
Beans the pig loves to be scratched between the ears.
Photo: Christina Oliver

Most of the animals live in a small barn originally used for her family’s Newfoundland ponies; some are boarding at her boyfriend’s farm.

“I get asked all the time why I didn’t go to veterinarian school,” said Ms. Oliver. “But I love nursing and coming home to my animals and the barn is something I have outside of school. It’s my happy place. I can go to the barn and feel quite relaxed and safe. It’s very therapeutic.”

Farming runs in the family, and Ms. Oliver’s fondness for animals comes from both sides; one grandfather raised Standardbred horses, the other still has a barn-load of chickens, sheep, a llama and some goats on his Goulds farm. The nursing student says it’s from helping out her grandfather with a goat birthing that she caught the farming bug.

Her interest was obvious, so her grandfather gave her two of the goats. He also helped convince her parents to convert their former pony barn-turned-shed back into a barn.

“It’s the pure joy and satisfaction of knowing what you are doing matters, that your actions are improving somebody’s or an animal’s quality of life.” — Christina Oliver

“There are more four-legged people in my life than the regular kind,” she laughed. “After spending so much time with them you don’t look at them as just animals.”

She cuddled them and cared for them, and nursed some of them back to health. And while she’s not able to rush out of the house in the morning or return in the evening without making sure her animals are fed, watered and content, Ms. Oliver wouldn’t swap places with any of her more carefree friends.

“The best part of living on a farm and raising animals is the same as nursing. It’s the pure joy and satisfaction of knowing what you are doing matters, that your actions are improving somebody’s or an animal’s quality of life.”

Spending time with her animal family is good for the soul and for putting her nursing knowledge to work.

“I couldn’t have this many animals if it wasn’t for nursing,” she said. “My time in pediatrics has really helped me care for sick goats. I’ve had to learn how to disguise medications, and my time in the Learning Resource Centre really helped me learn about injections—I use the same principles with my goats.”

When her grandfather’s llama died after giving birth to its baby (called a cria), Ms. Oliver used her research skills and a health-care database, to find out how to get the wee one drinking from a bottle. It really was a case of life and death.

Once she graduates this spring and writes her registered nurse licensing exam, she’s planning a barn expansion.

“I’d like to purchase more goats of various breads, and maybe another llama.”

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