THE NUMBER of veterinary students wanting to work with large herds may be declining but Ellie Hodge has no doubt where she will apply her focus in the future.
Ellie, 20, of Leitchville, is this year’s winner of the Greenham GOTAFE Dairy Scholarship, valued at $12 000.
Keen to keep the momentum up after completing her Science degree, Ellie is in her first year of Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Melbourne after being granted accelerated entry into the course.
She is one of three daughters to dairy farmers Cameron and Ann Hodge who milk 400 Holsteins on their Northern Victorian property. The shared experience of lending a hand in the dairy or hand feeding calves had a deep impact on her outlook.
“Mum and dad have always been very open about the challenges of operating a dairy whether it be on-farm efficiencies, the volatility of milk pricing — basically the realities of running a dairy operation.”
“When I was about sixteen, the local vet came out to treat a sick cow and I thought this is pretty cool — and later learnt that I could get paid for it!”
Ellie now looks up to senior Vets and the love they have for their careers. She understands how rewarding it is to treat multiple species of animals and see positive results, particularly in production animals.
“As I have gained more knowledge, I’ve become really interested in the area of animal health in terms of welfare and also production. Unless an animal is in its best condition and its welfare given top priority, it can’t produce to its potential — the two go hand in hand.”
Of particular focus, Ellie is keen to investigate further into areas like dairy cow mastitis and preventative measures to this industry wide issue. “We can look at reducing Bulk Milk Cell Counts (BMCC), improving breeding strategies and tightening up farm practices which can decrease losses associated with the condition.”
“I’m also keen to look further into antibiotic use and the issues surrounding ongoing use and antibiotic resistance,” Ellie said.
With the cost of both an undergraduate course and doctor of veterinary science exceeding six figures, the scholarship funding takes some of the financial stress away.
Executive chairman, Peter Greenham, said the scholarship demonstrates his company’s long-standing commitment to education, innovation and the Australian dairy industry.
“It’s very important that younger people see a future for themselves in dairy and agricultural production. We have built our business on servicing the dairy sector and we want to see it prosper to help build strong regional communities and local economies,” Mr Greenham said.
Among the criteria considered for the $12 000 prize are personal and academic achievements, the potential benefits and relevance of the chosen study area or career path to the dairy industry (or related industries) and how important the scholarship might be in helping the applicant realise his or her ambitions.