Aside from another four months of intensive studies in University of Montreal’s Faculté de médecine vétérinaire this fall, my path leading to a fulfilling career in veterinary medicine has been enhanced by some marvellous experiences in Switzerland last summer.
At the beginning of June, I left the campus to go on a three-months-long trip, eager to learn more about the alpine way to raise milking cows, to put them to pasture in the Swiss Alps (yes, graceful cows grazing 1400 meters above the sea and even more!), to transform their milk into delicious cheese (Le Gruyère AOP and Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP) and to do veterinary medicine. I worked on Andrey’s family farm for about two and a half months, and then I went to a veterinary practice for a two week training.
My stay has been very rewarding. It permitted me to apply various husbandry know-how (milking, assessing milk quality, cheese-making, fence management, gathering the herd with a dog, etc.), but also to assess different points of view about the aim of agriculture and farm animal welfare… points of view that are actually nearer to mine than what I am used to encountering in my own country ! For example, I saw farmers and veterinarians being concerned by the health of cow feet in a completely different manner than what we do here in Canada. Being concerned… and working actively to prevent and to treat foot diseases. Because Swiss cows need to walk to feed themselves and because Swiss farmers know how pain is counterproductive, foot health is of first importance. During my veterinary training, I had the chance to see how to treat different foot problems common in mountain such as sole abscesses and ulcers. It was interesting to talk about farm animal welfare, and more specifically about foot problems with one of my veterinary mentors who came to Canada ten years ago. This very fact allowed us to make relevant comparisons between Swiss and Canadian agricultural contexts. Together, we were able to notice and to analyse differences about animal welfare assessment and management. This is only one example of the numerous comparisons I have been able to do last summer. I am glad to have had these new experiences; they reinforce my convictions to work to enhance the welfare of Canadian livestock, using Switzerland as a model of vanguardism.
Last but not the least, this trip – made possible thanks to the Schulich Leader scholarship I got in 2012 – allowed me to restock my reserve of happiness, hopes, dreams and personal ambitions for my future studies and life projects!
What else? On a smaller scale, I also accomplished different new medical procedures this fall, during my clinical training at university. Indeed, I made my first venipuncture on an alpaca, I anesthetised my first dog and my first cat and I assisted my first emergency surgeries on horses. Though they were «first-time»… they will not be the last!