So I should probably start with a little background. My name is Zoe and until 2 months ago I was working at Park Issa Vets mostly on the farm side but also doing a fair bit of the small animals as well. Having gone straight to Uni after school and then onto work, itchy feet started to set in! I decided that a change of scenery and some new experiences were needed. And so I have kindly been given 7 months off from Park Issa and have come to Australia to do a bit of Vet work out here and see some of the sites Australia has to offer. So this is entry number 1 to my blog about my travels and experiences working in Australia.
On Wednesday I will have already been here for 8 weeks (time doesn’t half fly). I have now almost finished my first couple of months of locum work. It’s been a shock to the system for sure as although the animals don’t change, and they mostly get the same conditions out here, how they are treated and the drugs used are often very different.
For the first couple of weeks I felt like a new grad again – learning what vets here would use to treat pneumonias or lameness. I must say I have got pretty good with the grinder for lame cows even though it terrified me at first! I have seen a fair few things out here that we rarely see in the UK – removing the third eyelid of cows seems to be a daily occurrence. This is because they often get tumours of the third eyelid due to the unrelenting sunshine they get here! All the favourite drugs seem to be different too – I feel a bit lost without Pen/Strep or A180 to hand, instead having to rely mostly on short acting Alamycin and Trisoprim.
The sheer lack of buildings out here astounds me as well. Of course all the animals are managed outside all year round and so farms will literally have the parlour in a shed and maybe one other small shed for sick cows or calves and that will be it. Yet they are milking 400 cows, you just don’t see them! As well as this rotary parlours are more common around here than traditional herringbones and I am quite used to clambering onto 6 foot high platforms now to pregnancy test the cows.
A couple of weeks in I got to go out with the boss to help preg test some buffalo cows, this farmer is milking 400 buffalo all for mozzarella cheese. I don’t know how he does it – they are extremely stubborn animals, downright refusing to go where you ask them too. On top of that they only produce 1 to 2 litres of milk per milking. The upside is rather than the $0.60 most farmers here get per litre of milk, buffalo milk goes for around $3.40 a litre (thats around £2.10 to you and me)!!
Snake bites out here are not uncommon and can happen to any animals including cows and horses (which unfortunately are usually found dead). They have two main types of venomous snake in Victoria, Brown Snakes and Tiger Snakes, neither one is nice to be bitten by causing neurological signs, bleeding disorders and death. If caught early enough we can treat them but the anti-venom (the same that is used in humans) is very very expensive. Interestingly though cats can often survive a snake bite with supportive care and lots of fluids, unfortunately dogs cannot. The first experience I had of this was out of hours and to be honest was terrifying as it isn’t often you have a true emergency in small animals where minutes really make a difference!
Apart from that the small animal work is all fairly similar to the UK, we have to remove considerably more grass seeds here which work their way into the most unusual and what must be terribly annoying places. They are horrible little things that seem to actually have a desire to burrow into animals – we had to remove one that was no smaller than 2 cm from the inner surface of a cats third eyelid yesterday!
The other culture shock is realising how spoilt I am in the UK with support staff and nurses. I have gained a new found respect for our lovely nurses at Park Issa as not having any makes you miss them terribly!! They do an amazing job looking after all the in patients on top of everything else they do. I never realised how much difference not having to answer the phone on call makes. In the UK you will always have a friendly nurse on the end of the line even if she is sending you to a rotten calving! I don’t much like the unknown here when I answer the phone – is it just for advice or am I going to have to leave my warm bed to go find a farm in the middle of the Australian outback!
Although I have been mostly working these past 8 weeks I have had a little time to get some travelling in as well. I have a good friend from uni who lives in Warrnambool and so have spent some time with her. We have been off searching for koalas in the trees of the national park there and spotting emus running around in the wild. I spent an Aussie Christmas with some British vets, although we stuck to Aussie tradition and had mostly prawns and sea food – mad ey!
Last weekend I took myself off to The Grampians (a national park consisting mostly of mountains), I did a gruelling hike up to the pinnacle to get some amazing views and strangely enough met another vet on the way up! A lovely Melbournian lady and it was at her and her sister’s campsite that I came up close and personal to my first kangaroo!! And I even saw an echidna on my way back too (a sort of cross between a porcupine and a hedgehog). I have included a few pictures of The Grampians, one of which involved crawling out onto a rock ledge to take – pretty terrifying! There were some amazing waterfalls and lookouts to go to as well and all of the views were simply stunning.
So that is pretty much a brief summary of the first 8 weeks here. I have one more week left at this locum job then I am off to Sydney to start 6 weeks of travelling. Going to try my best to have a post on here once as week to keep everyone updated on the adventure but don’t worry they will probably be a fair bit shorter than this one. Until next time!