Veterinary graduate Mitchell Dodds is on a steep learning curve during his first calving season.
2020 marks the beginning of the career Mitchell has aspired to since primary school.
He was the inaugural recipient of the Jakob Malmo Gardiner Foundation Tertiary Scholarship in 2014 and after six years' study is now a practising vet at West Gippsland Vet Care in Warragul.
"Calving is my favourite part of the job; I just find it very rewarding," Dr Dodds said.
"My days generally consist of going from farm to farm assisting farmers with calvings, sick cows after calving, or lame cows.
"I'm getting a lot of variation because no two calvings are the same."
From helping large-scale dairy farmers with complicated cases to supporting hobby farmers inexperienced in calving, Dr Dodds said he enjoyed the variety of cases and clients.
"No amount of prep in vet school can prepare you. You just need to do heaps of calvings," he said.
In a recent case, Dr Dodds had to call his employer for on-farm assistance when a calf presented with the rare deformity, Schistosoma Reflexus (internal organs on the outside).
"The dairy farmer calves 800 cows a year, and has only seen a calf born inside-out twice in 50 years; I've seen it in my first eight months as a vet," Dr Dodds said.
"So, I've already seen challenges at each end of the spectrum from extremely challenging to a hobby farmer calling me out a few weeks too early for a calving."
Dr Dodds had long aspired to work as a vet.
"In grade four, when I was nine or 10 years old, we had to write a paragraph about what we wanted to be," he said.
"I knew then that I wanted to be a vet, and I've never wavered from that."
Dr Dodds also felt the call early to specialise in the dairy industry.
"I grew up on a mostly beef hobby farm at Boolarra in central Gippsland and spent a lot of time at my grandparents' 200-head beef property at San Remo; but a lot of my mates and the people I played footy with were from dairy farms," he said.
"Growing up in a region where dairy was so important, combined with my desire to be a veterinarian and wanting to work in a mixed practice in regional Victoria, it just made sense to me to become a dairy veterinarian."
"From a financial point of view, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation scholarship enabled me to really focus on my degree.
"It's difficult to work while studying veterinary medicine when you have 50 contact hours a week in the first two years.
"You also have to do placements in an animal-related industry in university breaks in the first two years, so we didn't actually get a break."
The link with Gardiner Dairy Foundation also provided Dr Dodds with valuable connections and insights into the dairy industry.
"The scholarship was a great start, giving me the opportunity to integrate into the dairy industry and community," he said.
"I went to luncheons and conferences, and chatted with like-minded people about the dairy industry."
Fittingly, Dr Dodds was presented with his scholarship by Jakob Malmo himself, a renowned dairy veterinarian based in East Gippsland, with whom he has kept in contact.
Dr Malmo retired recently after a distinguished 58-year veterinary career.
He co-authored the textbook Diseases of Cattle in Australasia (second edition released in 2019).
"I find Jakob inspiring and think he is someone that we as young dairy vets could all aspire to," Dr Dodds said.
Applications for 2021 Gardiner Tertiary Scholarships open on September 15 and will close on December 2.
For more information please go to: https://www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/ts/.
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