The wild world of Vet Science

Vet Science Student Christine Bye while on placement in New Zealand

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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

Publish Date

17 July 2021

Related Study Areas

From Brisbane pets to tropical vet

Originally from Brisbane, JCU Student Christine Bye had never worked with animals before. After landing a job at a vet clinic, she discovered a passion for helping patients with fur, feathers, and paws. With the encouragement of the clinic’s resident veterinarians, Christine decided to take a leap of faith into the wild world of veterinary science.

Christine didn’t know that when she stepped into her first day of work at a veterinary clinic in Brisbane that she was taking her first step toward her future career. “As soon as I began, I just thought, ‘This is what I love’,” she says. “I was there for a couple of years, doing different roles, but I really wasn’t sure I could pursue veterinary science because it’s traditionally quite hard to get into.”

But the advice of her co-workers and a bit of self-encouragement led to a change of attitude. “We had a few JCU students come through that clinic for placements and they always said they loved it there,” Christine says. “And the vets that I worked with were always saying that JCU graduates had more practical, hands-on experience. So, I thought, if this is what I really wanted to do, I needed to just go for it.”

Although Christine applied to a few universities, when she received an offer from JCU, she knew she would be on track to pursue her passion. “I was really excited about studying at JCU, but also nervous to move away from home,” she says. “But I was really interested in tropical diseases, so the fact that JCU Vet Science is based in tropical and rural disease was an absolute bonus for me and I was stoked to come here!”

Christine and her friends while on placement at Limestone Downs
Christine sitting on a horse at Cherbon Waters Equestrian Centre
Left: Christine and fellow students on placement at Limestone Downs, New Zealand. Supplied by Christine Bye. Right: Christine back on the horse. Supplied by Cherbon Waters Equestrian Centre.

You have to trot before you can gallop

Now in her third year of study in the Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Christine has put her knowledge and skills to the test with several diverse placements.

“My first placement was at a family-owned dairy operation just outside of Auckland, New Zealand,” Christine says. “It was a great first placement because we got to do and see so much. We saw a vasectomy, we did a lot of foot care, and there were a couple cases of mastitis. They even had some workers there from the Philippines who told us about dairy work in the Philippines as well as Dubai, since they had worked there, too. It was really interesting to hear about the work of veterinarians in other countries.”

From there, Christine took on the monumental task of sheep vaccination in Limestone Downs, New Zealand. “It was a huge operation,” she says. “A couple of girls from our cohort and I drench vaccinated around 4,000 sheep. We were very good at it by the end!”

Being from a city, Christine didn’t have very much prior experience with handling livestock and was quite nervous at the thought of working with cows and sheep. But the staff at each of her placements gave her the guidance she needed to work confidently.

“Everyone was so understanding, especially in the first couple of days when you’re nervous,” Christine says. “Plus, the training that you get at JCU kicks in and you gain that confidence pretty quickly.”

Christine’s most recent placement was with the Cherbon Waters Equestrian Centre. Although she was excited about the experience, she was also nervous about getting back on the horse — literally.

“I was really honest with the people at Cherbon Waters about not really knowing how to ride horses or how to handle them,” Christine says. “I hadn’t been on a horse in ten years, I hadn’t owned a horse before, and I was quite nervous! We do get handling training and experience in our first and second years, which really helps and was super valuable to me because I could go back over my notes beforehand to make sure I was prepared.”

The staff at the Cherbon Waters Equestrian Centre helped Christine find her confidence and made the placement a fun and rewarding experience. “When I got there, they were so accommodating,” she says. “They took the time to give me lessons and were really, really helpful. It was really hot there and they would give us ice blocks and stuff like that after we finished working. They were so lovely! It felt like working with family.”

Christine with cows while on placement in New Zealand
Christine with several sheep at Limestone Downs
Left: Christine while on placement at New Zealand dairy operation. Right: Christine with her new friends at Limestone Downs. Supplied by Christine Bye.

Prawns before dawn

One particular placement that Christine undertook was an experience she never thought she’d have. Working at a prawn farm entailed early morning starts, detailed knowledge of water, and plenty of worms.

“We get to choose where we do placement and I never thought I’d have gone to a prawn farm, but I ended up at Gold Coast Tiger Prawns and it was amazing,” Christine says. “Most of the work was around husbandry and water quality. So, I was there at three in the morning to test the water quality, which involves things like checking the pH, oxygen, and temperature. Keeping the water at very specific attributes is incredibly important.”

Apart from ensuring that the on-site brood stock were healthy, Christine also had the chance to get her feet wet when she went cast netting. She learned how to weigh the prawns and check for diseases — but first she had to catch them. “I wasn’t the best, but I gave it a go!” she says. “It was definitely hard work, but it was a great experience. It was right around Christmas time, though, so it was crazy busy with the demand for prawns.”

Part of what made the placement so exciting for Christine is that it was an opportunity to gain experience in yet another aspect of an incredibly varied field. “Aquaculture in particular is an up and coming industry and JCU is doing a lot more in that field compared to other universities,” Christine says. “It’s really good to know that you’re getting a good, all-round education that you can’t really get anywhere else. It’s not just tropical diseases, it’s tropical veterinary medicine and rural practice as well. You learn about so many veterinary fields and work with animals of all kinds.”

When she first started studying, Christine was looking at pursuing mixed practice in a small animal oriented career. But after discovering the hard work and high reward of working with livestock, she’s decided to expand her view to embrace the many different paths she could take as a veterinary science professional.

“With every year of study and every new placement, my passion for this field and this industry grows. With so many possibilities and options and opportunities waiting for me, I’m so excited to really get out there and start doing what I love the most .”

JCU Student Christine Bye

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