VET’S DIARY: In at the deep end proves messy for student vet

As a practice, we have always been committed to training and developing veterinary students and in recent years we have seen a ‘feminisation’ of the students, writes Joseph Henry.

This is not to say that all the male students now wear make-up, but that now only about 10 per cent of all veterinary students are male.

One product of this feminisation is that we have a steady stream of young female students seeing practice with us.

This is where they get to see the real examples of their theoretical training being put into place and hopefully where they get to learn some of the practical skills it takes to become a vet. Sometimes these examples can be very hands on.

I remember with a smile one student who turned up dressed more appropriately for a business meeting rather than for being a beef and sheep vet.

On that particular day we were doing pre-breeding examinations on bulls before they go to work with the cows in July. This is an important part of our work as to maintain profitability a cow has to have a calf every year otherwise she incurs all the costs, ie feeding, bedding, etc, but has no output. In order to make sure all the cows get pregnant we have to make sure that the bulls are fully fertile. If we can avoid the farmer putting infertile bulls out with the cows then he will have more pregnant cows which should make him more money.

Part of the pre-breeding examinations involves getting up close and personal with 1,300kg of beef on the hoof.

The bulls had been out on spring grass which tends to ‘run through them a bit.’ I had already checked one bull’s seminal vesicles by putting my gloved arm up the bull’s rectum and having a feel around. I asked the farmer if it was all right if the student could have a feel as this is the only way to learn what is normal and what to expect.

This particular bull was an Aberdeen Angus and entry was at perfect shoulder height for me at about five foot. The student was about my shoulder height. She put her arm-length gloves on, applied some lubricating gel and with a bit of a grimace gently dived in. At that moment, the bull decided he didn’t want another arm going up his rectum and strained to try and force it out.

You know what happens when you put your thumb over a hose pipe. Well, the bull equivalent of this happened to the student whose face was sprayed with a couple of litres of warm, steaming liquid digested grass. Once I had gallantly wiped her eyes and mouth with a bit of cotton wool I think she saw the funny side of it and the farmer and I assured her it was good for the skin.

It turns out eye shadow and cow excrement do not mix and the next day she came in minus the make-up and in attire more suitable for a farm vet.

So back to the stream of young ladies which come around the farms of rural Northumberland with me. Some of the farmers when introduced to another female student ask if there are any males ones left (not many) and say things such as ‘He has a different one every fortnight you know’ to the student. This is all taken in good humour generally but the last farm I took my wife to the farmer said ‘Another different lady with you Joe….’!