Rubber Boots Required: Vet Tech Students Head to the Farm

I pulled on my rubber boots and zipped up my overalls last week. Two things that I never thought I would say or do in my life. But, what I witnessed was amazing and made me want to join in the fun…or work, as others would call it.

Production Animal Students at the Hamlin Valley Farm. From Left: Travon Moore, Taylor Tuinstra & Dr. Paul Olsen.

Recently, I got the opportunity to tag along with the veterinary technology students to their Production Animal class. Instructor and Veterinarian Dr. Paul Olsen brings his students to Hamlin Valley Farms in Eleva, Wisconsin, each quarter. Paul was previously employed there as a Large Animal Veterinarian, and now the farm allows him to bring students out to learn the large animal side of the vet tech world.

Dr. Olsen described the importance of the students learning the large animal side of veterinary medicine. “Over the next five to ten years, there is estimated to be a shortage of large animal veterinarians. The reason it is important for vet techs to learn the large animal side of the field is so that they can help relieve the shortage by assisting with many of the routine procedures.”

While on their weekly visits, the students get the opportunity to assist in a variety of areas such as restraint, blood draws, medication administration and physical exams.

Taylor Tuinstra, veterinary technology student, listens to the cow’s stomach to help confirm that the cow has a displaced abomasum.

It was an exciting day for me when I got to tag along. I’ve been on farms before, but haven’t gotten to see the inner workings of a farm. While on my visit, I learned that they housed over 2,000 cows, and that the cows there produced 90 pounds of milk per day, on average! It was such a large farm, and lots of events happening throughout the day. It seemed to be a great learning opportunity for students, and I was eager for what the day had in store for us.

The afternoon started off with an exciting twist, no pun intended! Dr. Morrow, the farm’s current large animal veterinarian, had two scheduled cow surgeries that we got to observe firsthand. Both cows had what is called displaced abomasum—when their stomach gets twisted and builds up with gas. This typically happens after a cow has given birth.

The students learned how to recognize this abnormality in a cow and got the opportunity to witness the entire surgery while Dr. Morrow completed it right in the barn. Amazingly, these surgeries are completed while the cows are standing! Throughout the surgery, the group was asked to identify various procedures that Dr. Morrow completed, as well as the cow’s anatomy. It was amazing and took learning to a whole new level.

Travon Moore, veterinary technology student said, “Witnessing the surgery was a really great experience. It was interesting to see the difference in surgical prep and technique between small animals and large animals and will be helpful for my future career.”

After observing the surgeries, we moved to a different part of the farm, where the students learned how to complete a physical exam on a cow. Dr. Olsen and the students first had to corral the cow into a separate pen for observation. Interestingly enough, being in the large animal field involves as much physical ability as it does intelligence.

Travon is checking for any abnormalities in the cow’s digestion as part of the physical exam.

Once they had the cow in a separate area, students Travon Moore and Taylor Tuinstra practiced their restraint techniques on the cow. Once the cow was restrained, they completed a physical exam. This included checking the cow’s temperature, pulse, respiration, and listening to her digestion. The students aimed to check for any abnormalities in the cow’s health and behavior.

While completing the physical exam, they found that the cow was dehydrated and recommended that they give her a hypertonic saline to help relieve the dehydration. Dr. Olsen then mixed up a solution and the students learned how to administer an IV to the cow.

Applied learning is something that Globe University takes very seriously. We aim to provide our students with the best training that they can utilize in their future careers.

Taylor and Travon administering an IV to the cow after learning that it was dehydrated.

“It’s one thing to learn about large animal medicine in the classroom, but it’s extremely important for our students to practice their skills in the field,” commented Dr. Olsen. “Our students get to learn how to restrain large animals, perform blood draws, and complete physical exams—which can be much more difficult on large animals.”

Taylor Tuinstra commented, “I really enjoy getting out of the classroom setting. It’s important to take classes in the large animal field because it can make you a more rounded CVT. Having a small amount of knowledge in both small and large animals can benefit your career. Lastly, you may not know until you learn about the large animal field that it may be a perfect fit!”

It was a fascinating experience to tag along with the students and Dr. Olsen. For me, it may have been the first time that I dressed up in boots and overalls, but the students looked right at home. It was clear that the training that they receive both in the classroom and in the field has prepared them for their career in veterinary medicine.