Ag Challenge is delivering the tools needed for what many regard as the dream job — working with animals, both large and small.

The Level 5 Veterinary Nurse Assistant course focusing on companion animals has a long and rich history with the Whanganui-based PTE (Private Training Enterprise) and has been a popular programme for nearly 20 years.

The Level 5 Rural Animal Technician course dealing with large animals is new to Ag Challenge and this year will be the first time the PTE has delivered the programme.

Both are being delivered in conjunction with Wanganui Veterinary Services and are the only courses in New Zealand wholly delivered in a working veterinary practice.

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For those already working with animals and want to make animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other small companion animals their speciality, then the the Vet Nurse Assistant course takes them to that next level.

The 40-week, fulltime programme covers small animal anatomy and physiology, breeding and feeding, health and wellbeing, clinical, and surgical diagnostic skills along with many other tasks that will allow graduates to work in a veterinary clinic or other animal related facility.

And for those already working with animals and want to make large animals like horses, alpacas, deer, pigs, cows, goats and sheep their speciality, then the Rural Animal Technician course takes them to that next level.

This is also a 40-week, fulltime programme and covers large animal anatomy and physiology, breeding and feeding, health and wellbeing along with many other tasks that will allow the graduate to work as a technician in conjunction with a veterinarian. It is also a springboard to becoming a veterinary nurse assistant.

Clare Morton delivers the Vet Nurse Assistant course, while Marieke Waghorn is in charge of the Rural Animal Technician programme.

"Both courses involve practical and theory, although the Rural Animal Technician course is probably a bit more hands-on," Morton said.

"Although in saying that qualification requires 240 hours of clinical work for both programmes. There is quite a bit of cross over between the two and some of our theory classes are combined."

The practical lessons for vet nurse assistants are conducted within the Wanganui Veterinary Services clinics, while the rural animal technicians are out in the field.

"At this time of the year the students are helping with calving, debudding calves and learning about mastitis treatment or taking blood samples for analysis," Waghorn said.

"They go out of farm on placement so they get the required 240 hours of practical work in the field."

NZQA to Level 3 is preferred for those considered for both courses, although both Morton and Waghorn say a potential student's life history is also a major factor.

"Some people may have been working with either small or large animals most of their lives and that is taken into consideration when accepting people into the courses," the pair said.

Application close for the courses in September 25, but before that, on September 13, an information day will be held at Wanganui Veterinary Services where presentations will be made on what students can expect over their 40 weeks of study.