Rural dairy vet training in action
A $1.4 million residential training collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Dairy Australia and the Gardiner Foundation is increasing dairy vet capacity in rural Victoria.
The residency training program aims to ensure the on-going supply of skilled dairy veterinarians in local practice and increase on-farm research that will complement industry initiatives.
Three veterinary clinics – Maffra Veterinary Centre, the Veterinary Group at Timboon and the Warrnambool Veterinary Clinic – are hosting young research veterinarians from the University of Melbourne.
Lauren Clyne has used her two years at the Maffra Veterinary Centre to focus on heifer mastitis (mammary gland infection).
She is assessing the incidence of heifer mastitis in local, pasture-based conditions as well as identifying associated risk factors. She is also developing benchmarks for farmers and is working on a set of recommendations for control and prevention of mastitis in these animals.
“I find that even though my research is not completed, I am able to give clients informed advice about how to manage mastitis in their heifer group. Our clients like getting the ‘inside scoop’ and enjoy receiving advice based on the cutting edge of research.”
Dr Clyne says the residency training program is fostering practical research, developed with the aim of helping farmers improve animal health in their herds.
“I also think it helps encourage students to consider a career in large animal practice and research. The program is assisting young veterinarians like us to find alternative pathways of development and helping to retain vets in the industry.”
Gemma Chuck has been working at the Veterinary Group at Timboon for the last 15 months while conducting research on setting targets for morbidity, mortality and live-weight gain for pre-weaned dairy heifer calves (young cows that have not yet given birth) in Victoria.
“I would like to determine risk assessments and on-farm benchmarks for calf rearing, to help farmers identify problem areas in the calf rearing process and know when to seek professional advice.”
Alongside passion for her research, Dr Chuck experiences high job satisfaction from teaching undergraduates and helping farmers with their calf rearing problems. Her work has also taken her out into the community, where her research has been welcomed.
Becky Dickinson also believes the residency program has much to offer the industry and rural communities, and has been at the Warrnambool Veterinary Clinic for the past two years.
“The residencies support improved relationships between academics and vets in clinical practice, which in turn lead to a better understanding of issues affecting the dairy industry, such as how to improve the sustainability of dairy production and the welfare of animals through promotion of dairy research and use of the dairy levy,” Dr Dickonson says.
Her research aims to establish a link between live-weight change and reproductive performance in dairy cattle. She is investigating links between production level and reproduction performance, and the influence of weight change in the post partum and pre-mating start-date periods.
All three vets have discovered a passion for teaching while enrolled in the resident program.
Dr Dickinson says she wants to encourage active learning in undergraduate students, and promote ‘dairy vetting’ as a career option, while also broadening her own career horizons.
“The advanced skills I am learning around research and data handling allow me to job search in all dairy sectors. The networking from the residency has opened up doors for me.”
Dr Clyne agrees, saying the residency has altered her career path.
“I originally planned to be a vet in mixed animal practice. Now I am keen to do further research and achieve further qualifications in the area of cattle medicine. I also hope to continue a role in educating and mentoring university students. I am proud to provide a supportive and stimulating learning environment for students, and enjoy seeing them improve in skills and confidence.”