Push up Girls! Push up!

No, not a push up bra. Just a really common saying as we get cows lined up in a race before their examinations. “Push-up girls!” We want them to push up into a nice tight, straight line so both the cows and us will be safe.

Jess and I flew down to Tasmania for 2 weeks to complete our Dairy Rotation. Obviously, the days were filled with cows… and cow poop! But we kept the weekends open and ready for lots of exploring.

Something new that I did in Tasmania was induce cows to calve. This is not commonly done in the rest of Australia. Farmers in Tassie use induction to help maintain tight calving intervals of their herd (having all their cows calve at the same time) so that it matches up nicely with the pasture growth (so there is food for the hungry momma cow’s to eat!). It is a simple procedure–just an injection! But the methodology and the conversations behind it were what I found most interesting.

Another new thing I did on this rotation was something called “visvaging”.  Yes, as in “visualizing the vagina”. This is done with a speculum and a light. Every cow in the milking herd needs to be examined in order to identify the presence of infection coming from the uterus. The sick cows need to be treated so that they can heal and become pregnant again. This is an older technique, as many veterinarians use a ‘Metricheck’ now. The older technique is still preferred on some farms and I think it is important to know how to do it.

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The only cow I was allowed to take pictures of on this rotation. Also, who wants to see pictures of visvaging anyways?!

Although this was our dairy rotation we spent some time semen testing bulls; which is more common in beef bulls. Semen testing is done to make sure that a bull is healthy and fertile before the breeding season. It is important that they can do their job (which is getting cows pregnant!). One afternoon, Jess and I both drove out to one of the vet’s house to semen test his bulls. Firstly, he had an absolutely fantastic property on top of a hill with almost 360 degree ocean views! Secondly, I found it hilarious that I tested one bull and came out relatively unscathed (ie: clean) and Jessica tested the next bull and came out absolutely covered in “dirt”…. don’t ask me how she did that!

I went to a lot of preg-checking calls. For many of them, the farm set up was not conducive to having a student manually palpate cows after the vet so I ended up watching the ultrasound screen a lot. This was okay because it gave me a decent amount of practice ageing pregnancies based on their size. At one of the first preg-checking calls (at a dairy) the vet told me she’d let me guess the breed when we arrived. Thinking that I had a decent handle on dairy breeds (there is not a lot of common ones), I thought this wouldn’t be that bad…. when we drove up I saw a bunch of red cows (some with blue eyes!) staring back at me. I responded with “not dairy cows”. Fun fact! Apparently Australia has their own breed called: Aussie Reds. For the super hardcore; here is the breed website. For everyone else, here’s a great picture!

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Please enjoy this Google image of an Aussie red cow. 

Another one of my favourite calls was to a Wagyu beef farm. They were one of the only farms in the area doing embryo transfer. The recipient cows were black Angus which were these huge beautiful CRAZY cows that were such a pain to get through the race and into the crush. Looking to the paddock beside us were all the relatively small wimpy (comparatively) looking Wagyu animals that are just so expensive and produce the most amazing steak! As well, this farm is located close by to an island and they do a yearly run of their cattle across at low tide. We went in for a cuppa after the job was done and had a nice chat and watched some amazing drone footage of the crossing!

Some of my favorite calls are for calvings. This whole year I have been hoping to get more experience with them. Luckily I got to go to 3 calving calls on this rotation. The first was a cow that had gone down (like literally laid down and couldn’t stand back up) because she was exhausted from trying to calve.  We met the farmer at their house and hopped on a “bike” (actually a quad…) and drove up and down some whopping hills and  through a creek before we found the cow at the bottom of a steep embankment. She had gone down in some thick mud beside a stream. Besides getting my boots stuck in the mud and flailing around wildly to try and stay on my feet, I managed to get the calving chains on the calf’s already exposed feet & pull him free! The benefit of being right beside the stream was being able to walk 2 feet and stand in the fresh water and wash all of our gear (and our arms!).

The second cow was WILD. By that, I mean a beef cow that was NOT happy to see us. Luckily she was already in the crush when we arrived, but that did not stop her from trying to kill us as we walked by. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself for getting her epidural in (on the first try!) and not getting kicked! What ensued was an amazing rodeo of calf manipulation, attachment of calving chains, having the cow go down in the crush (and then up again…. x3), putting on a halter and then letting her out of the crush to go down. Folks, this is when the real fun started; we had the halter wrapped around a metal pole and being held by the farmer. In about 2 mins I would be silently praying that this was the strongest rope halter created by mankind… The vet snuck up and got the calving jack into position. For those of you who do not know what a calving jack is, here is a picture:

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The calving jack is the metal piece of equipment. It is placed under the cow’s tail. Chains are safely wrapped around the calf’s feet & attached to the handle on the long pole. You can then pump the handle up the pole which will pull the calf out of the birthing canal. https://www.pbsanimalhealth.com/products/vink-calf-puller

At this point the cow decided to get up again and start swinging back and forth at the end of her rope. Which meant we had an angry cow with a 10ft metal weapon swinging around in front of us. I attempted not to get knocked out cold while marveling at the determination and calm mindset of the vet who continued to dodge the jack, replace the chains, and eventually pull the calf out!

The third calving call was a lovely calm cow who’s calf was breech. This was fun for me because the vet let me do a lot of the call. He helped move one of the calf’s legs into position and I moved the second leg into position, I need a few hints and tips on where to pull and in what direction. Side note: apparently some vets think its cheating if you can fit both your arm’s inside the birth canal to manipulate the calf 😛 (sorry non-vet people for that mental image!) Then we attached the calving jack and I pulled the calf out!

Okay, okay, enough cow stories! On our weekends we tried to squeeze in as much exploring as we could. Neither Jess or I had been to Tassie before and we doubted we would be back again. On our first weekend we drove down to Cradle Mountain and did a few awesome walks around there. This drive was when we realized how beautiful Tassie really is! The wattle trees were in bloom–brilliant yellow everywhere!

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We had everything from horizontal rain, snow, and sun during our few hours of hiking in the Cradle Valley! One minute we would have great visibility, and the next we could barely see a few meters ahead.

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Jess, just reaching the top of Marion’s Lookout in Cradle Valley. Luckily the snow had cleared! 

The next weekend we had big plans! We drove from Smithon down to Hobart, over to Wineglass Bay, Launceston, and then back to Smithon! The best part was probably the hike we did at Wineglass Bay. It involved a short hike up to the lookout and then about 1000 steps down onto the beach—which was gorgeous! And when ocean is that beautiful, how can you resist jumping in it?!

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It was as beautiful as it looks 🙂

So the classic Canadian in me… I changed in the bushes and then ran straight into that water. It was….fresh! Even with all my experience swimming in glacial lakes growing up, I still got the wind knocked out of me when I hit the water. haha!

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The view from the top of Wineglass Bay

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Proof that I actually did go in the water. This is me probably struggling to breathe. 

We stopped a bunch of times along the way and ate some nice food, did a few short walks, and had a lot of fun urging our tiny rental car up and over the hills!

It was a short flight back to Melbourne and a day of rest before starting our second week of General Practice rotation at the University Hospital.

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“We are One Sweat”

A little bit of team bonding, some long work days, a lot of humidity, and a touch of heat stroke & dehyrdation led to that gem of a quote (perfect for a blog title!).

I have loved traveling for a long time and I have grown to love traveling with a purpose. That is why I am so appreciative of the travel opportunities for university students. Last year, while organizing our final year schedules we had the option to apply for 4 weeks of ‘selectives’ in areas of veterinary medicine we were interested in. My last selective was the 2 weeks I spent in the Northern Territory working with community dogs & cats.  I sent in an application and went to an interview and was picked as one of four students to attend a veterinary international development trip in Myanmar.

The 11 day whirlwind trip was fantastic! I loved the country, the people, and especially the work we completed! There really is so much to say about this adventure that I’ll try and keep it summarized for you…

We were part of a pilot project for a bigger research organization that has been established in Myanmar for many years. We worked with a team of veterinarians from the University of Veterinary Science, Myanmar. Rural village visits were arranged ahead of time. We set out in our two vans and traveled to these villages where a Unimelb student + Myanmar veterinarian would interview sheep and goat farmers. The questions were asked in Myanmar language and written down in English. We asked questions about the herd structure (how many males/females, young/old), how many were bought or sold or died? We also asked questions about who took care of the animals (gender of the person, age, etc) and which duties were performed. Then we asked the farmers about which health conditions were most important in their herd and if they performed any treatments on their animals.

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One of the Myanmar vets writing down interview answers

After the interview with the farmer we would go out to the sheep or goat pen and observe the herd for any obvious signs of illness. The most common things we saw were: itchy animals, lots of coughing/sneezing, old diarrhea, and a few lame animals.

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Gathering outside a typical sheep pen preparing to start our observation of the herd

Lastly, we took blood samples from two animals from each herd.

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Collecting a jugular blood sample from a sheep. It was rewarding to teach & assist the Myanmar vets in performing venepuncture. 

Every night we came back to the hotel lobby and set up a mini laboratory with a centrifuge and our samples. We ran a few tests and transcribed our data into computers.

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Preparing blood smears during some free time at the village

We did a quick look through of our data and made some brief presentations so that we could give a summary to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Bagan. Even though this was just a pilot survey and we barely skimmed the surface of research and agriculture in Myanmar I thought our results were extremely interesting! I loved experiencing and adapting to the challenges that presented themselves to us; I feel like it made us stronger as a team. I saw the importance of working in international development. The health problems that these animals are experiencing could be cured with some involvement, education, a few diagnoses and some medicine –easier said than done!

And of course, aside from the university side of the trip we tried to squeeze in some sightseeing. I haven’t spent a ton of time traveling in Asia before, but every time I’ve been I’ve loved it! The food is all different and exciting; we ate a lot of soups and curries and I quite enjoy eating goat meat! There is fresh fruit juices at every meal. Myanmar tea made of condensed milk and red brew demands at least 2 cups during every tea shop brekky.

The roads are a crazy mixture of on-foot traffic, motor bikes, cyclists, cars, and bullock carts. Honking is common!  Our last 2 days were in Bagan, a city packed with thousands and thousands of temples, pagodas, and stupas.  There was a lot more tourists here and the traffic a bit calmer; which meant it was the perfect place to rent E-bikes and drive around for hours in the hot sun visiting ancient buildings!

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This is just one of the many many ancient temples we visited. They are just as amazing on the inside as they look on the outside! 

Something I was particularly struck by was an appreciation for human generosity. We did not speak Myanmar language and many of the people I met did not speak English. Yet, we managed to communicate through a few key words, charades, and overwhelming kindness. Any time someone anticipated that we might need or want something they would jump up to do it! I hadn’t brought a hat with me and ladies kept offering me their woven straw hats to keep the sun or rain off. Traditional sunscreen was applied to my face several times. The heat was sweltering (!!!), and at every house we were offered water, tea, or paper fans! At one point, someone even stood up to fan us while we conducted our interview. Amongst our own team generosity was overflowing as well–everyone was willing to share water, gastro-drugs, itch cream or lend a helping hand if someone was feeling off.

 

 

I can’t thank my fantastic team from Unimelb and UVS enough for being such good travel companions and research colleagues!

After such a whirlwind of traveling over the last few months I’m appreciating a week at home to sleep and work on my research project! Next up is my dairy rotation…

Chinese New Year in Singapore

When I started vet school I made a lot of new friends. Out of all the international students in my class the majority are from Canada and then Singapore. So naturally a lot of my new friends are from Singapore. This year I managed to find cheap flights (while I was procrastinating studying during final exams) and decided to go visit some of my friends in their home country. It was a quick vacation but jam packed of activities and celebrating Chinese New Year!

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Some of the MANY Chinese New Year treats we tried 

Something I have wanted to do for years was visit the Singapore Aquarium. Its on a little island called Sentosa which is full of tourist attractions. Our first day in the country included touring the aquarium and navigating the crowds around the rest of Sentosa.

Our friends have been raving about the food in Singapore since I first met them so this trip was definitely intended to be a bit of a foodie adventure. That being said…. We ate way too much! But there was so little time! A few of my favourites included the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, fruit stalls in Geylang (jackfruit, mangosteen, jambun, and rata, and experiencing hawker food centers. Sanitation and food safety in Singapore is very important so the government inhibits street food vendors like you might see in other Asian countries. Instead, all the food vendors have been moved inside into ‘hawker centers’ where there is tables and chairs, sinks, inspections, and regular cleaning of facilities.

…I told you there was a lot of food….

We toured through both Chinatown and Little India. I really loved the murals and statues in Little India. We also walked along/through several shopping streets and districts. There is multiple shops of very high end brands everywhere! Tourism/shopping is one of Singapore’s main industries! I did not buy anything….

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Year of the rooster! Happy New Year! 

One day involved a big walk from Marina Barrage (with views across the water to Indonesia) all the way to Gardens by the Bay. At GBTB we visited the Flower Dome to see the displays. It was extremely busy inside, but very beautiful. Once the sun went down we stayed for a very impressive light show in the Supertree Grove. The tree structures are completely self sufficient as they have solar panels on them that collect sunlight energy during the day to power the night-time lights!

Another cool thing we did was a quick stop in at the Central Perk café (from Friends). It was very expensive so we didn’t order much but we hung out on the couch and watched a few episodes and took a lot of cool pictures.

I wanted to go to the zoo but we just didn’t have time. We walked all along the Singapore river and saw spectacular views of the Singa skyline and impressive buildings.

One of my favorite things we did was actually just before we left was called lou hei. It is a tradition you usually do on the first day of Chinese New Year. Everyone tosses the food into the air with chopsticks and shouts sayings of good luck for the new year. Whoever tosses the food the highest will be the best off.

Anyways, thats a few of the highlights (it barely covers everything we saw/did/ate in our week)! Thank you so much to my friends who took me into their houses, introduced me to their families, and included me in their busy CNY celebrations. I appreciate it so much and loved the experience. Thank you 🙂

Road Trip: Melbourne to Brissy to Melb

After my parents spent a week with me in Melbourne we left on a road trip up the coast. We drove in my roommate and I’s car. Since we bought the car a few months ago, it has changed our lives in Australia—made everything so much easier and nicer! I love it.

If I tried to write about all the places we went on our trip this blog post would turn into a 3-part novel series. So, I’ll summarize:

Places we stopped:

Wilsons Promontory, VIC

We did a hike and explored Squeaky Beach—its called Squeaky Beach because the sand squeaks when you step on it. Also, its absolutely beautiful and I love it there.

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The parents taking pictures of the waves going in and out

Seaspray/Ninety Mile Beach, VIC

Perfect unspoiled brilliant white beach for as far as your eyes can possibly see in both directions. We were so disappointed when we were here because it was too cold and raining to swim and we so badly wanted to spend a lot of time enjoying the area.

Lakes Entrance, VIC

Gorgeous location, full of boats and great sunsets! We went fishing one day and pulled in a few puffer fish. Also, ate a lot of great seafood.

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There is something incredibly interesting going on here

Raymond Island, VIC

Drove here and took a 5 minute ferry ride to the small island known for koala sightings. And we saw koalas, tons of them (and kangaroos)! No matter how many times I see these guys curled up in trees—they will always be adorable.

Buchan Caves, VIC

Took a guided tour through one of the caves and saw very sparkly rocks and amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Different than other caving experiences I’ve had.

Eden, NSW

This is where my family spent new years eve. Its a small town with a huge whaling history. One day we did the ‘Killer Whale Trail’ and drove around to different locations to learn about the colorful whaling history in the area. I was way more into it than I expected and really enjoyed this stop!

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Quite the party animals these two are!

Tilba Tilba & Central Tilba, NSW

Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere. Accidentally spent too much time here cause there is great cheese and tons of fun little shops to explore.

Huskisson/Jervis Bay, NSW

A bit of a party location. The beaches are unbelievable. Still a bit rainy for enjoyable swimming but we got some snorkeling in and explored Booderee National Park (Cape St George Lighthouse/Moe’s Rock/Stoney Creek/Murray Beach/Botanical Gardens). Hyams Beach is in the Guinness World Record book for being the beach with the whitest sand. It is brilliant and so soft! But looks just as white as a lot of the other beaches we’ve stopped at?

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I don’t know if you could ask for a picnic lunch with a better view

Sydney, NSW

I’ve been to Sydney a couple of times now, but I do like going with different people and showing them some of my favorite views or exploring new areas together. I actually traveled to Sydney with my family when I was still in elementary school so it was fun to be back in the same place with them again. This time we spent an entire day at Cockatoo Island in the sun learning about convicts and industrial ship building in Australia.

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In the middle of our audio tour on Cockatoo Island

Another one of my favorites in Sydney is the fish markets. I made sure my parents stopped here before we drove on to the next place. We obviously ordered up a seafood lunch and ate it outside under the watchful eye of the seagulls. Read about my last trip to Sydney here.

Port Macquarie, NSW

We went to the Roto  house, Tacking Lighthouse and Lighthouse beach, but my favorite stop was the Koala Hospital. It is free to tour around and look at the koalas. A few of the patients are now permanent residents because they have been too sick or injured either due to bush fires, cars, or chlamydia infections (yes, surprise! All the koalas have chlamydia in Aus; look it up!)

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Just before we headed down to look at all the blue bottle jellies on the beach

Coffs Harbor, NSW

I wanted to stop and take a picture of the giant banana statue. (ask my mom why I never got the picture 😛 )

Byron Bay, NSW

I love Byron Bay, this is the Australia that everyone imagines when they think of ‘down under’. Its hot, its right on the ocean, everyone is tanned and beautiful, people wear swimsuits everywhere, no one wears shoes. Surfer dudes galore! Party town. I wished I could spend a whole summer here. We visited Main Beach, the lighthouse at night time, and The Farm.

Brisbane, QLD

We didn’t nearly have enough time in Brissy to explore it properly. But we did go to the Australia Zoo (and Wildlife Hospital)—possibly the best zoo I’ve ever been to! I loved all the exhibits and the fact that Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin are still heavily involved in promotion of wildlife and carrying on Steve Irwin’s work.

We stopped at the Glasshouse Mountains during sunset to eat fresh pineapple and watch the sun go down—absolutely breathtaking.

Lastly, we did a ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour in the CBD. My fav stop was Streets Beach—a man made beach right in the middle of the city because Brisbane is located slightly inland from the ocean and doesn’t have their own beach.

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Brisbane skyline overlooking the river

My parents left from Brisbane to fly back to Canada. We had a great trip together that I will remember forever. It was nice to be able to spend a lot of family time in my new home. Looking forward to the next trip when my brother might join us!

Then the drive home….

Tommie flew up to Brisbane that same morning to meet me and drive home to Melbourne with me!

Places we stopped:

Byron Bay, NSW

Since I loved Byron so much we decided to stop here again; we may have also bought a surfboard and spent an afternoon playing around in the waves at Main beach. We went to visit Stone & Wood Brewery for a tasting of one of Tom’s favorite beers.

Ballina, NSW

Picture of giant prawn statue obtained!

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What a beautiful thing

Coffs Harbor, NSW

Picture of giant banana statue (finally) obtained!

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#touristgame strong

Port Macquarie/City Beach, NSW

Tom and I had fantastic weather for our entire trip back down the coast, this meant that we could stop and swim whenever we wanted. And we loved it!

Taree, NSW

Picture of giant oyster statue obtained!

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This oyster ‘statue’ was oddly very hard to find

 

Sydney, NSW

If you’ve never been to Sydney and you’re driving past Sydney—you really need to stop! The harbor and Circular Quay is exactly like the movies and its very impressive. We did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk to see 2 of the most popular beaches (and all the ones in between) before going for a quick swim and then continuing on!

Canberra, ACT

I hadn’t been to Canberra yet so I really wanted to stop here. Most people say there is nothing to see in Canberra—but I think I would come back to the capital city. It is a lot smaller and not as visually impressive as Sydney or Melbourne but there is a ton of history and museums to explore. And the area around is beautiful as well. Since we didn’t have a ton of time here, we randomly picked the Australian War Memorial Museum to take a tour at—huge!! Then we drove up to Black Mountain and went onto the viewing deck of Telstra Tower. I think this was a great option for us as it allowed us to see a lot of the important buildings and locations all around Canberra even though we didn’t have time to visit them.

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Poppies on the wall at the Australian War Memorial Museum

Melbourne, VIC

I actually loved driving inland on the way back to Melbourne. Likely because I had seen coastline for the last few weeks (And the coast is brilliant, don’t get me wrong) but the rolling hills and fields reminded me home. I like seeing the sun shining on straight roads and the open sky.

While we didn’t have many days to drive all the way home, we managed to see a lot of spots and experience a lot of cool things! We saw dolphins swimming in the ocean, goannas in our campground, learned to surf, and had a ton of fun!!

Pending: one more travel blog post before I get back to what this website is really about—vet student adventures!