Tight situations aplenty but life of a country vet never dull

Tight situations aplenty but life of a country vet never dull

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Victoria's Dr Elle Moyle says veterinary work can be challenging but there is nothing like the satisfaction of having a happy patient at the other end.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Victoria's Dr Elle Moyle says veterinary work can be challenging but there is nothing like the satisfaction of having a happy patient at the other end.

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Zanda McDonald Award's young veterinarians talk challenges and satisfactions of a demanding job.

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From performing outback surgery on a foal in the middle of the night by iPhone light to a miniature cow caesarean or an operation to keep a bull on the job, the nail biting situations in which veterinarians Elle Moyle and Shannon Landmark Speight have found themselves sound like scenes from movies.

The biggest challenge of veterinary work, they say, is navigating tight situations - having to make important decisions on-the-spot.

"There can be high pressure situations, especially with large animal work, but you learn fast and there is nothing like the satisfaction of having a happy patient, and producer, at the other end and knowing you've made a difference," Dr Moyle said.

The two veterinarians have been recognised in the Zanda McDonald Award which looks to reward exceptional passion in agricultural careers, with Dr Moyle a finalist this year and Dr Landmark Speight a joint winner last year.

Having grown up on a farm, it was the classic love of animals that put Dr Moyle on the veterinary science path and after graduating in 2014 she worked in private practice in South Australia and Queensland. Her work there was mixed but focused on large animal and equine medicine.

For the past three years, she has been the district veterinarian with Victoria's Department of Agriculture, based in Hamilton in the state's Western District.

Dr Moyle made the decision to shift out of private practice - which often involved long days and nights, including weekends - in order to buy and develop land for her own livestock operation. She runs 1000 composite ewes at 'Elsey Park', Gazette, for prime lamb production along with trading steers and is slowly building Angus female numbers.

She also works alongside her parents, helping out with marketing, sales and communications at Pathfinder Angus stud which sells more than 500 bulls annually.

"Becoming a farmer has made me a better vet," Dr Moyle said.

"Really understanding the problems and decisions that have to be made on a property day-to-day means I have a deeper understanding of producer issues and I can give more rounded and practical advice."

Within her role as a district vet, Dr Moyle investigates on-farm livestock disease, livestock traceability, welfare and is a responder to emergencies involving agriculture. She considers the work Agriculture Victoria performed during the January bushfires to be some of the most valuable she has been involved in, and much of that belief comes from having experienced bushfires as a producer herself in the 2018 St Patrick's Day fire which burnt through her parents' property.

Her job this year involved attending affected properties to assess the welfare of livestock and help farmers with decision making and euthanasia where needed.

"It's an invaluable service. Any producer in that situation will tell you how hard it is to see your animals in pain and how difficult things are immediately post fire. This is one thing I can help them with," Dr Moyle said.

Unique industry

PASSIONATE: North Queensland's Dr Landmark Speight says the cattle industry is like no other and where she wants to spend her days.

PASSIONATE: North Queensland's Dr Landmark Speight says the cattle industry is like no other and where she wants to spend her days.

North Queensland's Dr Landmark Speight doesn't do things in half measures. Not only is she co-ordinator of the Northern Genomics Project at the University of Queensland, she is completing her Master of Business Administration, has launched a software company for beef data and is mum to one-year-old Fred.

The genomics project has her performing most of the ovarian scanning, pregnancy diagnosis and data collection and benchmarking on the phenotypic and reproductive traits of each herd involved.

The end goal, she explains, is for producers to be able to accurately select animals for breeding stock or feedlots or other markets, regardless of breed, crushside by a simple and affordable DNA test.

Dr Landmark Speight had only worked in private practice a short time before the genomics opportunity arose and she found it too exciting to turn down.

Beef had been where she had wanted to focus after deferring her vet degree to work on a station south of Katherine for a time.

"The practicality and pragmatism of people in cattle makes it an incredible industry," she said.

"There are people trying new things all the time but there is also an element of the tried and tested. Integrating that cutting edge technology and innovation with good, sound animal welfare and stock handling skills is what makes beef so progressive - it's what advances the industry."

Worth the sweat

Veterinary work is not all saving animals of course, but the good endings, particularly when they come on the back of very testing circumstances, make it worth the sweat.

The miniature Braham caesarean came in the middle of the night before the beef judging at the Finch Hatton Show when Dr Moyle received a call from a breeder who said he thought the cow was calving but didn't know for sure because she had been too small to preg test.

"I'd never seen one of these breeds before. It looked like a Brahman but it only came up to my waist and she was indeed in labour," Dr Moyle said.

"I had to do the caesarean in a stall with the aid of all of the exhibitors standing by in torch light - luckily both mum and baby were fine."

HANDS ON: Veterinarian Dr Elle Moyle with Angus cattle in Victoria.

HANDS ON: Veterinarian Dr Elle Moyle with Angus cattle in Victoria.

Dr Moyle has many fascinating stories including when she undertook an externship working for a royal family in Dubai, looking after million dollar racing, endurance and polo horses.

"One night a young horse came into the hospital looking sick and we thought it may be colic at first but within a few hours it had rapidly deteriorated," she said.

"Unfortunately the horse didn't make it and the post mortem found it had died from a rabies, which had never been seen in that country before.

"I had to go through the full set of vaccinations - it was nerve wrenching for a while knowing how much exposure I'd had."

Dr Landmark Speight said the extent to which producers were willing to give her a go was incredible.

Like the owner of a 1000 kilogram bull who had stood on and damaged his penis and required a preputial resection, very rare surgery.

Dr Landmark Speight called an experienced vet she knew was well-practiced in the procedure who facetimed her through the task.

A few months later the bull was back serving the herd.

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