- Melissa Holmes
My AHEMS journey began in a small town on the West Coast of South Australia. Being an avid supporter for the abolition of factory farming, I wanted to see for myself the feasibility and sustainability of free range pig farming. At the end of the hard, hot, dusty placement I was convinced of the way of the future (ironically to return to the past!).
My AHEMS continued from the West Coast to the Fleurieu Peninsula where I admit to now being a little captivated by alpacas! This placement provided the opportunity to halter train cria, assist with matings, and to observe a post mortem. Then on to the Yorke Peninsula to prepare some feisty yearlings for Magic Millions sales. A number of my placements have been in the Adelaide Hills including beef cattle where I was able to learn an enormous amount about Charolais and Simmentals, administer antibiotics, and assist the vet in removing a ‘foetal monster’ which had died inside a cow. My sheep placement was one of the most interactive and amongst many things I assisted the vet with blood sampling for Brucellosis testing and tag & weigh newborn Border Leicester x Merino lambs - there is nothing like newborn lambies! On a recent equine placement I was able to enjoy some sooky horses used for classical riding snuggle up to me in the paddocks – always a bit awkward when a massive horse thinks it’s a Chihuahua!
Each and every placement has provided me with the opportunity to develop safe, practical handling skills and to learn more about the people behind the animals – their motivation, their drive, and to admire their determination. Their commitment is astounding and I have appreciated the knowledge they have unselfishly shared which undoubtedly contributes to my ongoing development. The diversity of supervisors at placements, whilst occasionally a little challenging at the time, only further supports & assists in developing our abilities to interact with a wide range of clients in the future.
There is one area as a result of AHEMS that has stirred something within me that I know will, at times, break my heart – shelter medicine. If I hadn’t had the experience provided through AHEMS, I may not have further explored the passion I have for this area…I even found myself looking at specialist residency programs in the U.S. and then reality hit like a lightening bolt that I really should worry about finishing these two degrees first!
I consider a veterinary career to be of broader social implication than simply the treatment of animals and I recognise the value AHEMS/EMS provides in shaping our knowledge and opinions. There are so many areas where we can have positive influence, for example - I believe as future veterinarians we have role to play in providing input into Code of Practice improvements, particularly with respect to animal welfare standards – and we need to have had exposure and experience in order to provide an informed, valued opinion on what is feasible and achievable.
The experience we obtain from talking to people from a wide variety of situations helps to be better able to recognise behaviours/animal injuries that are outside the norm or not consistent with what the client is saying. This assists in identifying and recognising broader social issues such as hoarding behaviours or domestic abuse (a large proportion of animals are harmed in domestic abuse situations) and the importance of support services to assist – including temporary homing of domestic abuse pets so victims can rebuild their lives & take their pet(s) home when they’re ready. This avoids further perpetuating the isolation of domestic abuse victims by perpetrators as their dogs/cats may be their only companions who provide unconditional affection and to loose them too is emotionally unbearable.
It has been my observation both generally and during AHEMS that often people suffering from mental health issues prefer the company of animals and subsequently invest their entire time in the safe surrounds of their property/enterprise. Being aware of this on placement has reaffirmed for me the valuable role of animals in reducing dissociative experiences and building resilience for those with Acute Stress Disorder/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and often compounded by depression. As future veterinarians, this experience is valuable for the interactions we will have with clients and, for those that are interested, having input into developing animal related programs to provide effective treatments.
I certainly feel privileged to have had the experiences and exposure that EMS has provided so far and to be surrounded by a committed group of students & staff. I wait with keen interest as I know that lurking amongst them is the future Australian Animal Rights Commissioner!
Posted 3 Feb 2015
- Jay Suri
My AHEMS (Animal Husbandry Extra Mural Studies) journey started in 2011 at the Roseworthy Farm situated on Roseworthy Campus. Having no previous farm experience, it gave me the opportunity to learn about cattle and sheep husbandry and to learn about the enterprise from a farmer’s perspective. Having studied veterinary medicine previously in India, it gave me an opportunity to compare practices between the two countries.
I did my AHEMS placement in various locations in South Australia, including the Riverland and in New Zealand.
My best placements were the alpaca placement in Auckland and equine placement in the Riverland. I learnt a lot during these placements. On both placements I had no previous experience with these species apart from the tuition in my animal handling practical classes. Over time I became comfortable working with these animals. During my alpaca placement some of the tasks I learned to do were halter training, vaccinating and de-worming. All these I really enjoyed doing. This placement involved handling animals most of time. The highlight of this placement was taking alpacas to a retirement village to socialise with the elderly. The equine placement helped me rid my fear of horses. At the equine placement I was able to lead, groom, and help exercise horses, as well as preparing feeds and administering de-worming treatments. My favourite activities being grooming and lunging the horses.
On some occasions during placements, I was lucky to have the vet visit the property and observe procedures being performed on animals.
These placements have helped me increase my confidence in working with animals and my communication skills with others in a working environment. I was able to apply knowledge from my first year subjects: Animal Husbandry and Principles of Animal Ethics, Behaviour and Welfare lectures during my placements.
I have also gained experience in wildlife, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, poultry, and aquaculture enterprises during the three years I studied the Bachelor of Science (Veterinary Bioscience) program. I have completed my placements at 10 different properties. I learned something valuable from each of the supervisors during the placements and enjoyed every aspect of the AHEMS placements.
Posted 3 Feb 2015
- Jordan Meade
After completing my secondary studies in 2008 I travelled to Canada on a 4- month study exchange to experience first-hand the difference in production systems, showing technique and importantly, the beautiful scenery.
I returned motivated and ready to begin my Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree at Adelaide University in 2010. Whilst this brought me the success of employment as a full time junior accountant I felt over time that it wasn't what I was destined to do. My trip to Canada along with my intense passion for animals saw me apply for the Bachelor of Veterinary Bioscience at Adelaide University in 2012. Although initially unsuccessful I worked hard during that year to be eventually accepted to transfer into the Veterinary Science 2012 cohort.
I have loved every minute of the veterinary challenge so far and in particular the opportunity to gain experience from the real world via the AHEMS program. I have so far completed placements at an intensive piggery, a large sheep property and at the SA Junior Heifer Expo 2013. By far the most memorable for me would be the Heifer Expo where I was unexpectedly recognized as the Senior Champion Herdsman and was awarded the North America Study Scholarship. As part of the senior herdsman program we were judged on all aspects of our showing, preparing and attitude throughout the 4- day show. Assessments included a 3-paneled interview, a marketing assignment, junior judging, clipping, stall maintenance, the 'buddy' system and more.
The culmination of many years of experience and hard work will see me travel to North America, where I will look to broaden my experience in cattle medicine, specifically related to nutrition and genetics. The AHEMS program is an invaluable opportunity for veterinary students to develop the skills required to approach a variety of situations. Importantly for me, each placement motivated me further towards my ultimate goal of becoming a reliable, trustworthy and proficient production animal veterinarian.
- James Fensham
After finishing high school in Melbourne in 2007 I was accepted into the Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences (SBANS) degree at La Trobe University, Bundoora campus that I completed in 2010. With a major in biochemistry and minor in zoology, I was offered an animal science honours project. However, with a strong desire to pursue a career in veterinary science I accepted an offer to enrol in the Bachelor of Science (Veterinary Bioscience) at the University of Adelaide. Appearing to focus on large and production animals this degree appealed to me, although I also have a passion for marine vertebrates and exotic animals.
After receiving recognition for previous education, I spent the first semester of 2011 completing AHEMS placements throughout my home state of Victoria. I began by gaining handling and equine management skills with a horse trainer in the Dandenong Ranges. I then assisted with calving and artificial insemination a month later on a seasonal dairy farm in Gippsland, followed by a week performing spit-offs and halter training cria in Lakes Entrance, at a suri alpaca stud.
Although, the highlight of my AHEMS experience so far was the three weeks I spent with the zookeepers at Halls Gap Zoo. Pouch-checking brush-tailed bettongs and feeding over 100 species, including 'Pemba' the very friendly red panda (inset) are memories I won’t soon forget.
Posted 3 May 2012
- Kirri Solly-Slade
For the beef cattle component of my animal husbandry extramural studies I went to a beef Stud in Flaxley owned by Margaret Wilksch. Having had minimal exposure to beef cattle in the past my main aim was to gain as much cattle handling experience as possible.
Whilst on placement my main task was to prepare an 18 month old heifer (Kylie) for the SA Junior Heifer Expo which I entered as a senior competitor. Prior to placement Erin Taylor (fellow student) and I had agreed to enter the heifer show but we had no idea how much work we were in for and did not anticipate how much we were going to learn!
The first week of placement consisted mainly of getting the heifer's used to human contact via brushing, leading, washing, blowing and clipping them as well as putting on and taking of halters and nose clips. Tasks with the heifers at the heifer show included those mentioned above as well as mucking out stalls, feeding and watering animals, walking the heifers round the show ring, calming them and standing them using the show cane. Other activities included a day of lectures, a marketing assignment, an interview, a short quiz, a clipping demonstration, being a senior 'buddy' to a junior competitor as well as junior judging. For junior judging we had six minutes to judge four heifers on the basis of their condition and conformation and we then had to explain to the overseeing judge on a microphone why we had placed them like this. I think for me getting on a microphone and talking about what makes a quality heifer was the most nerve-wracking experience of the whole show. Ironically it was also this task which highlighted to me how much I had learnt and where I got to display this new knowledge the most.
I gained a lot from competing at the SA Junior Heifer Expo and on my placement and also had a lot of fun. I definitely achieved my aim, to see the practical demonstration of theory that I had learnt at uni. I feel that I also fulfilled my goal of gaining experience in the handling of beef cattle. The SA Junior Heifer Expo was a very steep learning curve but I learnt so much and I feel a lot more confident now.
Posted 3 May 2012
- Faustina Niap
Prior to starting the Pre-Vet degree, I had little experience with animal handling. However, the workload of the program meant that there is not really enough time to obtain the skill a vet would be expected to have upon completing the degree. I believe that AHEMS has given me the skill and confidence to approach all sorts of animals in various situations.
Being an international student, AHEMS also helped tremendously with my communication skill with Australians, especially farmers who I hope to work closely with in the future as a large animal vet. All the farmers, managers and supervisors on placements were very accommodating both to my lack of experience and skills. At the end of the day, I truly felt that I had come away with a whole repertoire of newly acquired abilities.
I truly enjoyed being able to assist in many veterinary and husbandry procedures. For example, on my first day at sheep placement, we drafted more than a thousand ewes and lambs and earmarked, tail-docked, vaccinated and even assisted in mulesing the lambs. After vaccinating that many lambs, I am able to say that I am proficient in giving sub-cutaneous injections which will, to say the least be useful as a veterinarian.
Many of the supervisors on placement are very down to earth people who loved the idea of an extra pair of hands. As such, we were able to get our hands dirty; carrying out post-mortems, helping the vet out with surgery, handling different drugs and also the more mundane tasks such as administering daily medications for sick animals. Although all these experiences will be taught during the degree, having a one on one discussion with the vet during the surgery and post mortem was indeed an invaluable experience.
Although AHEMS may sometimes seem like a conspiracy to take holidays away from vet students, a positive approach to the experience will indeed be the best learning experience you can gain during the degree. The only trick is to pick the right places at the right time and to plan ahead so that you are not stuck with doing straight weeks of AHEMS in the last summer holidays. Of course not forgetting to speak to higher level students about what they have done. The Veterinary gang at Roseworthy are a superb bunch and we are always ready to speak to a newbie about the ins and outs of the degree.