Never a dull moment for a rural vet

By Jamie Salter

The Numurkah Veterinary Clinic comprises three vet nurses, six vets, two receptionists and resident cat Mr Tinks, however, a lot of the work is performed outside of the clinic.

Co-owners Peter Grant from St Germains and Frank Worsfold from Numurkah run one of the few privately owned veterinary clinics remaining in the country.

Dr Grant graduated from the University of Melbourne after five years of study in 1985 and always knew he wanted to be based in the country.

“Being outdoors is a better office than in the city, some days you spend hours out on calls,” Dr Grant said.

A typical day as a country vet could involve post-mortem work, vaccinations, disease control, orthopaedics, obstetrics and much more.

With Country News along for the ride, Dr Grant began one day recently with a visit to the dairy farm, Nathalia Pastoral Co, to track how long the cows have been pregnant.

He donned gloves that reached his elbows and performed a manual rectal examination on 35 cows, using a scanner for help if the unborn calves were under three-and-a-half-months old.

The cows thrashed about to escape the gate, yet Dr Grant stayed calm and said handling the cows was not about brute strength.

“You have to be careful, if you get knocked by a cow, you'd be lucky not to break a leg,” he said.

“Eighty to 90 per cent of veterinary science workers are female, they just need to work smarter when handling the cows.”

Dr Grant cleaned his equipment and called the office who informed him his next job was at a beef farm in Nathalia, regarding a limping cow.

He found the cow had cracked its toe; he held the cow's foot down with a rope, cut the toe back to healthy tissue and gave the injured cow antibiotics.

On the drive back to the office, Dr Grant started laughing when asked about the most gruesome thing he had witnessed.

“A dog came out staggering, the owner thought it was a snake bite,” he said.

“Someone had put a sheep to sleep, and anaesthetic can stay in the body for years.

“I made the dog throw up, and it was month old dead sheep, and then the dog tried to eat it again."

Dr Grant listed a few things rural vets get the opportunity to do, «« compared to one in a metropolitan area »» which city vets don't.

“For a country vet in Australia, we perform disease surveillance for the state, which is important for international trade,” he said.

Every few years he gets to give blood transfusions to anaemic cows, and only three weeks ago he X-rayed a red-bellied black snake from a fauna park.

“The hardest part is dealing with poorly managed animals, but that's pretty rare.”

Back in the office, Dr Grant completed a knee operation on a small dog, before getting ready to do it all again the next day — unless he got called out sooner than that with the Numurkah Veterinary Clinic 24-hour emergency service.