The national rural veterinary crisis is being actively addressed by Australian Agricultural College Corporation with hands-on training for students at its Berrigurra property.
In a partnership with Queensland University, 22 Bachelor of Veterinary Science students in second and third year have spent two weeks getting hands-on with large animals.
In an industry where 90 per cent of graduates are female and the average age of a rural vet is 50, there is a serious need for young blood, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation Primary Industry Beef Extension Officer, John Bertram said.
“This program gets students who have a career vision of working in a small animal clinic with cats and dogs, out to the bush working on a large beef cattle property, doing things like preg testing, branding and working with horses,” he said.
“By the end of the trip, we are seeing a significant number of these students talking about working in a mixed practice or even specialising in large animals in a regional or remote area.
“It’s extremely beneficial for the students to be immersed in this environment; almost none of them have ever seen a property of this scale.
“They learn a range of things from working in a yard and mustering to moving cattle with low-stress stock handling, applying many basic husbandry practices such as reading NLIS tags, body condition scoring, weighing and weighing various classes of stock.
Bertram said the program was very positive in addressing the national issue of a skills shortage in rural and remote areas of vets.
“The partnership can be integral to the supply of new professionals into rural industry.”
While practical work experience is part of their bachelor degree, this partnership places the students in an environment completely foreign to them with positive results.
AACC Horse Instructor John Howe said students who were a bit hesitant at the start of the experience were mustering at the end and handling cattle in yards.
“Some haven’t been near a cow or horse before and they learnt a great deal and were collecting and evaluating semen from bulls by the end!
“Our classroom was Berrigurra and the students were able to apply their theory knowledge in practical ways and gain a working knowledge of cattle and horse husbandry.
“This practical opportunity compliments the UQ vet science lecture material, enabling the students to relate the theory to practice.
“Students visited a feedlot and AgGrow in Emerald so really got a taste of what life in a regional centre can be like and it made an impact, with some now seeing themselves as having a practice in the bush.”
The program mixes skills training in cattle and horse husbandry that allows students to appreciate how a beef enterprise operates on a day-to-day basis, the financial commitment involved in managing and operating a beef enterprise.
“This program encourages practitioners to work in rural areas, a core issue affecting communities, by showcasing the lifestyle and giving them a taste of where their career could take them,” Howe said.
“It’s a really positive partnership.”