Tuesday morning and a collection of twelve new or recently qualified vets (with a heavy Scottish influence) are sat in Synergy Farm Health’s meeting room. Why? For the first instalment of the new Farm Vets Graduate Development Programme; Dairy Days. Dairy days is the initial three days that begins an eight day core module helping new/recent farm animal graduates to find their feet and avoid the pitfalls that can be associated with farm animal veterinary. The course is based at several XL Vet practices and offers an opportunity for budding farm vets to discuss any concepts with experienced clinicians, put to use and hone practical skills and talk to other young vets in the same situation.
Dairy days incorporated everything from decision making in specific situations to herd management, dealing with clients to dealing with safety on farm. Day one was spent both in an interactive classroom situation and on farm, discussing sick cows, calvings and metabolic diseases (even a standing down cow!). Day two involved a practical morning of paravertebral blocks, a replicated LDA, enucleation and anything else on a patient that wasn’t likely to complain. The afternoon was an interactive session of uterine health including key skills, treatments and statistics. The final day was all lameness based and was mainly practical with feet being practiced on using the Dutch five step technique and then a farm visit to learn how to cope when the facilities aren’t available and literally putting ourselves in cows’ shoes (using a very fetching pair of homemade goggles).
The evening sessions were dedicated to communication workshops and aside from team building by tying each other in knots there was a lot of thought provoking discussion, particularly how to avoid making assumptions that may trip you up!
Overall I feel I speak for the group when saying this was a positive experience for all of us, an opportunity to interact with experienced clinicians, graduates who had been in our positions and new vets that, although in other areas of the country, are treading the same water. We look forward to part two!
Beef & Sheep
Six weeks later and Tuesday morning greets a group of twelve a bit less newly or recently graduated vets sitting, in a very comfy meeting room (with a lovely view!) just outside of Alnwick. This time it was Alnorthumbria’s turn to host the beef and sheep module of the XLVets graduate development programme. Having spent three days learning about dairy cattle it was a nice opportunity to catch up with everyone’s experiences over the last few weeks and how many of the skills taught at the previous session had been put into action.
Day one covered sheep: an interactive day with both case based presentations and practical session compromising key production targets, reasons for poor scanning, lameness (including flexing our muscles turning a few sheep!), abortion, parasites and common diseases. Day two was a mixture of case based learning about beef, an introduction to some vital pieces of kit (pelvometers, BAL tubes, guarded swabs and varying other bits of equipment set to trip you up when on farm) and a practical session on bull and ram breeding soundness (both how to obtain a sample and then what to do with it once you have it!).
Once again an informative couple of days, providing insight into how to approach beef and sheep farms in a practical and profitable way. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all at the hosting farm and the staff at Alnorthumbria for their contribution to the graduate development programme.
The Final Days
February came bringing the final module of the core skills from the XL Farm Graduate Development Programme. Although slightly depleted on numbers, it was a great opportunity to catch up and find out how everyone was approaching an increasingly busy season – with new grads picking up tips from those that had a few months head start.
Day one was pigs and poultry. This was an excellent, concise day packed full of information from backyard small holdings and what to expect, through to the basics of large scale production. An afternoon session of practical post mortem provided an excellent opportunity to learn as each new grad was given a pig and a chicken to post mortem along with a specialist demonstration. This provided the rudimentary skills required to start an investigation and approach straightforward problems, should we be required.
The second day was part one of the survival skills. It included a day of training from an ex RAF fighter pilot, drawing parallels between the stress of being in a cockpit and the stress of farm vetting(!!). A thought provoking day that encouraged thinking outside of the box and managing to juggle the many components of an average day whilst, crucially, remaining safe on farm.
Finally, the last part of the core modules was an intensive driving day. We are all aware that new grads don’t have a great track record (no pun intended) when it comes to keeping our cars roadworthy. Day three was delivered in two instalments, a skid control and crash avoidance course and an intensive driving assessment. Aside from being excellent fun, and several of us being told to slow down, the day was most useful given the conditions we all drive in.
Once again, on behalf of everyone who attended the course, I would like to thank the Vetskills team for all their work and all of the trainers for their input.
Emily Denton, Shropshire Farm Vets