Page 19 - Livestock Matters - Spring 2013

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Sam Bowker
, Exeter, Devon
Fourth Year Veterinary Student, Cambridge University
About Me
I am a vet student in my fourth year of a
six year course at Cambridge University,
who has grown up on a mixed livestock
farm near Exeter in Devon. At home we
milk 150 Friesian-type dairy cows, lamb
300 ewes (of which I have a flock of 25
pedigree Charollais), run 20 Devon beef
sucklers, and until recently had an outdoor
herd of 750 sows.
We also have cider orchards, 60 acres
of spring barley, and run a Christmas
shop during the month of December,
selling trees, wreaths and meat from the
farm, with four reindeer helping to draw
the punters in! I'm a member of YFC at
home who loves sport, and I hope to
practise as a large animal vet once
I graduate.
Springing into action
As I approach the end of my busiest term so far, the
opportunity to reflect a little is a refreshing break from what
has been a manic eight weeks or so. A combination of nine
till five lectures, exams, lambing, hockey and church activities
has made for a thoroughly enjoyable time, but I will be in
need of a little catch-up sleep when I get home!
The fourth year of the Cambridge vet course
is the first of the clinical years, and I am
finally starting to imagine that I could be a
vet one day. After a theoretical first two years
and a year of Management Studies (we have
to do something different in our third year),
it is nice to get hands-on and learn things
applicable to being in practice.
I'm currently revising for a nutrition exam,
and it's been great to learn the scientific
principles behind what I previously naively
thought was often guesswork. The fourth
years are in charge of lambing the university
flock of Lleyns, and we've been able to see
first-hand the importance of what we are
learning. Initially the ewes were slightly
energy deficient with inadequate protein
levels in the diet, resulting in a few cases of
twin lamb disease and low milk production
(and a lot of bottle feeding); but increased
concentrate and soya has been added to
the ration to rectify the situation and the
problems have virtually disappeared.
At home, poor quality silage from the bad
weather last year along with foot problems
have caused a difficult start to lambing.
However, the dry weather of the last few
weeks has allowed fertiliser to be spread
(and dad to have a play with the new GPS
system in his tractor), while the slurry lagoon
has finally been emptied.
Looking ahead, I'm excited about some work
experience at Easter - two weeks of equine
practice at home and then two weeks of farm
practice in Wiltshire. I'm a big believer that
you learn the most by seeing and doing
things in the real world, and the 26 weeks
the course requires us to do is a great
opportunity to hone our practical skills.
It's a fantastic chance to learn how to
communicate with a huge variety of different
people, see different farming systems and
ask lots of questions.
Before that though, Cambridge life continues
at a pace - after the exam I'm playing in the
Varsity hockey match against arch-rivals
Oxford, followed by a ball in the evening. It's
a busy time, but I wouldn't change any of it!
The Cambridge Blues Hockey Team to face
Oxford (I'm bottom left)