Externship Adventures: Wyatt Catron
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Wyatt Catron completed an externship with Dr. Tim Gole of For Flocks Sake, a sheep focused consultancy practice based in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia. This gave him the opportunity to experience sheep production and veterinary medicine in another country.
Why did you choose this externship?
I chose this externship for multiple reasons. The first, being a sheep producer myself, I wanted to see how they manage sheep flocks in the biggest sheep producing state in Australia. I also wanted to see how their yards (handling facilities) were set up to achieve such a scale. Second, I wanted to learn how veterinarians are working with flocks on a population level to help their clients succeed. I also wanted to see and practice my fetal counting skills with the gold-standard ultrasound and probe. Lastly, Australia is extremely innovative in their approach to internal parasite management, ewe management and lamb survival, so I wanted to understand how they dealt with those issues as they would be the three biggest costs for us here in the United States.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
My favorite part was taking part in several courses Dr. Gole put on for producers. I participated in a group where we practiced and evaluated body condition scoring and then discussed how to change our grazing/feeding program to meet the target body condition scores for various production periods. We also did a lamb survival course where we looked at lambing paddocks (pastures) and necropsied several lambs to determine the cause of death, which is important for deciding if we need to do further testing or change management for the next breeding season.
What was the biggest thing you learned?
My biggest takeaway was how important it is to make a flock management calendar so we aren’t in a constant reactionary mode and able to plan well in advance. The climates weren’t all that much different from Stillwater, but they manage their forage base better and stay on top of regular flock maintenance which allows them to be leaps ahead of us in sheep production.
What was your international experience like?
It was a fantastic experience. I was welcomed everywhere I went and had several people to thank for that. Emily and Tim are both veterinarians, so we had plenty of conversations about the differing regulations, drugs and agriculture between countries. They let me stay at their house and Emily was a fantastic cook and got me hooked on Tim-Tams! Jack Creswell, a sheep producer and podcaster (Farms Advice), and his family were extremely generous and let me join them for a barbecue/birthday party and horseback riding. Jim and Gabi Hull invited me out to muster and run sheep through a dipping vat. Gabi also let me tour the large lamb/mutton abattoir she works at.
What advice would you give to future students when selecting their externships?
Don’t waste an externship by staying in your comfort zone! Always keep a couple externships for working interviews but be sure and do some in a specialty that you have a genuine interest in. These let you build on the knowledge you learn in school and see how it really works. You’ll find out quickly if you really like pregnancy checking cows after you go through 1500 head in two days!
How did you find out about this externship?
I originally reached out to a large livestock breeding consultancy group that covers NZ and AU and asked who the best sheep veterinarians were, since they did not have a veterinarian on staff. That led to two names. The first was Dr. Gole and I realized I had already been following his business on social media for a long time, so I reached out and asked if he would be willing to let me join him for a few weeks.
Anything else you'd like to add?
If you go to a country where they drive on the left side of the road, always let someone else drive the first few days before trying it yourself!