Farming: You get little triumphs every day


There's no such thing as the Monday morning blues with British born vet Helen Taylor for she's found her niche as a large animal vet and loves every single minute of her work.

We're on our way from Hastings to Oban Station in Maraekakaho as Helen, who works for Vet Services Hawke's Bay, has kindly agreed to be interviewed about her job. It's less of an interview and more of a jolly good natter between "poms" as we wend our way down Valley Road resplendent in autumnal hues and rolling, lush green hills.

Helen's on her way to meet Derek and John Richmond to check up on a cattle beast diagnosed with leptospirosis two weeks ago. Apparently it's been a "classic lepto year" thanks to the unusually wet weather. She takes a blood sample so that back at the Hastings surgery they can test to see which antibody the beast 686 has produced.

As one of five Hastings based vets who specialises in large animals Helen, who has an honours degree in zoology along with the letters BVSC (Hons) and MRCVS after her name, covers a large beat from Kotemaori north, to the Mohaka heading towards Taupo, Puketitiri and then south heading towards Waipukurau.

Helen is energised by farming in New Zealand as it's just so much more alive than farming in the UK. "It's a major part of life. There's lots of energy in New Zealand farming."

"It's all good with people constantly pushing boundaries, good productivity, good stockmanship and good animal welfare."

We get to chatting about bulls, as you do and because she does a lot of bull work has very definite views about bull testing. With physical and semen evaluation tests available she recommends all bulls should be tested to make sure they are capable of mating.

"Bulls are half your breeding herd so you shouldn't neglect them."

While many test proactively there are others who leave testing until calf numbers dwindle which is often a waste of a season. "If they get just one extra calf the service has paid for itself."

Testing bull semen might not be everyone's cup of tea but it's all part of a day's work, and an enjoyable one at that, even if the weather is inclement or the beast is temperamental. Recently a frisky bison bull tore a big hole in the farmer's ute she was travelling in but she takes it all in her stride.

"Sometimes it rains, sometimes you get kicked-it's all part of the challenge."

Helen sets up testing facilities on the farm so she can assess the semen as soon as it's out of the bull. Later, back at the lab additional tests reveal whether the sperm is viable and plentiful.

"All bull breeders should be making sure their bulls are semen and service capacity tested and BVD tested and vaccinated. All breeding herds would benefit from testing their bulls before they're put out, rather than after."

When asked about triumphs and challenges she says it's all good and she has fun all the time. She especially enjoys tending to working dogs and is full of admiration for their hard work.

"Farmers would be lost without them. They're like marathon runners- they'd be doing a top end triathletes work in a day."

Hawke's Bay is a far cry from the 36 cow pedigree Guernsey dairy herd in the Peak District where Helen was raised. She says people in New Zealand laugh at the small scale of the operation, some 20 or so hectares. But it's where she learned about vets, worked on the farm, made hay and grew up with creatures around and about.

In the next few years Helen will focus on her career, acquire more skills and experience, become more proficient and work towards specialising rather than being a "Jack of all trades."

It's a physical job, which she enjoys, and the hours can be long but it's what she signed up for.

"I love it 90 per cent of the time and I love going to work."

When asked about triumphs and disasters she responds that it'sall good and "You get little triumphs every day."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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