Written By

Nicolette Ward


College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

Publish Date

27 January 2022

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A lightbulb moment

Bachelor of Veterinary Science graduating student Sarah Brabazon is happy she finally figured out what she was born to do. Growing up on a cattle farm in Esk, situated in the rural Brisbane Valley region, Sarah’s interest in the family’s business led her to her first degree in animal science, followed by a Master’s.

Originally for Sarah, the goal was to head back to the farm and put theory into practice. But a lightbulb moment made Sarah realise she actually wanted to be a farm-based vet.

“I have always been interested in sustainable animal farming, especially in the face of a changing climate and changing market where being adaptable has become so important. But the more I went into my studies, the more I was missing that connection with people and helping with their animals on a face-to-face basis,” Sarah says.

“So I decided to further my passion for farm animals and start my second degree in veterinary science at JCU.”

Sarah riding a horse along the side of the road on her families farm in Queensland.
A selfie of Sarah with a black dachshund.
Left: Sarah riding horseback in Queensland. Right: a selfie of Sarah and a dog.

Accelerated learning through practical placements

Reflecting on her five years of vet science studies at JCU, Sarah says the opportunities she has had at JCU are hard to beat, especially in relation to the volume and variety of placements that are on offer.

Having a cattle farm on-campus as part of the vet science facilities certainly came in handy for Sarah as she also runs a cattle farm with her partner in south-east Queensland.

“The large animal facilities at JCU are great. As well as the cattle farm, the vet science students get to collaborate regularly with the Townsville Veterinary Clinic which has a specialist equine service for horses,” she says.

“The amount of placements we do, both in industry and in clinics, just makes you so much more employable at the end of your degree. Your learning is really accelerated when you are on placement; you learn quickly because you have to.

“A highlight of my placement experiences was in an industry setting, at a cattle production farm near Rockhampton, with one of the most forward thinking and interesting producers of beef in Queensland. When you are doing an industry placement with animal producers, you gain an appreciation of what it takes for an animal breeding or farming business to be economically viable. You also need to be very hands-on and help out wherever you can, like opening up bales of hay or cleaning up after the animals. So industry placements like this really help you to become a well-rounded graduate.”

Sarah participating in equestrian sports.

Supplied by Sarah Brabazon.

Benefits of JCU and working rurally

Sarah says a surprising but extremely useful aspect of her studies at JCU was the emphasis on communication skills as well as coping skills.

“I really appreciated how much emphasis JCU put on being able to communicate and understand your clients and finding out what’s important to them during a consultation. For example, you could be going out to a cattle property to treat 100 cows, but if they don't change their management practices, you're going to be back there in six weeks or six months’ time, treating the same cows. So you might be in a position where you need to communicate possible changes in animal practices, and JCU trains you in how to deal with these kinds of difficult conversations.

“The course at JCU also includes a good dose of personal and professional development which I think is such an important part of being a vet, so that when unfortunate things happen in the workplace, you've got some sort of coping strategies in place to help you with the emotional toil that this kind of work can have.”

Having just graduated from the five-year Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Sarah is now looking forward to starting her fist vet surgeon job in a mixed animal and equine clinic in the rural town of Marburg, located just outside of Ipswich.

“I’ll be working mostly on horses and farm animals, but I’ll also get the opportunity to work on camels, goats and llamas from the nearby hobby farms, so it will be a very diverse role which I am really looking forward to.

“I do like a challenge, and I think I’ll definitely find that working in a mixed practice. I could be helping farmers produce more calves every year, or helping people manage their winning racehorses better, and then I might see a 12-year-old cat with hyperthyroid issues. The absolute variety of the vet science profession is just wonderful.”

Find out more about JCU’s Bachelor of Veterinary Science.

Discover JCU Veterinary Science

Follow your passion and gain the practical skills to help a variety of animals across different communities