Scholarship helps young vet fulfil his dairy dreams

Matt DeCicco has seen the difference he can make as a vet. Now he’s planning to take his expertise to the next level.

His current work on Gippsland dairy farms already fulfils a life-long ambition, but Matt thinks there’s more to achieve.

“I’m enjoying what I do and feel more confident every day, but I’d like to look at further studies to continue challenging myself and look for different skills or roles in areas such as cattle medicine and surgery,” he said.

Matt grew up on a dairy farm at Merrigum in northern Victoria, and a career connected to dairying was always on the cards. He graduated in 2018 and now works for the Gippsland Veterinary Group based in Leongatha.

“Dairy was always a big focus of my life and where I wanted to be,” he said.

“I had a connection with and love of animals. I was always out on the farm with Dad helping with the cows. Every time the vets came, I was fascinated by what they did.”

His parents were supportive of his career ambitions, but going to university in the summer of 2013-14 during one of the driest years on record was a challenge.

Receiving a Gardiner Dairy Foundation Tertiary Scholarship made a huge difference to Matt and his family.

“(My parents) said if you’ve got a passion, pursue it — but they had gone through a very dry season so the scholarship was such a big help,” he said.

“The scholarship helped relieve the pressure when you’re exposed to the industry’s ups and downs.

“It meant I didn’t have to do part-time work and could focus on my studies, which paid off.”

While he wouldn’t rule out buying into a dairy farm at some stage in the future, Matt relishes his veterinary career choice and his location.

“Seeing first-hand how hard it is to be a dairy farmer whilst growing up, has definitely made me appreciate the industry, the dairy community and my role as a veterinarian even more.”

There was no question about working in a dairy area.

“I didn’t want to go home after graduation. I was keen to venture away to another dairy area,” he said.

“I hadn’t been exposed much to South Gippsland but I was blown away by the (veterinary) practice and the area. It’s such a beautiful region.”

About 50 per cent of his job involves cattle or large animal work, although he describes himself as “a true mixed vet” who also enjoys small animal work.

“I try to be as versatile as I can.”

Calving issues dominate this time of year.

“Spring calving is very common around here and we see a lot of calving and health issues post calving, plus a lot of sore feet, especially in the wet weather,” Matt said.

“Making a difference is rewarding.

“Going through the whole calving process, managing calf sheds, colostrum management and dealing with different bugs in the sheds can make a really big impact on a farm.”

Moving into the workforce has had its challenges, but Matt says the support network at Gippsland Veterinary Group had been pivotal in his success and growth.

“Like any job, some days are harder than others and we are faced with some pretty challenging things in our industry.

“But having a strong support network to discuss and debrief is something I’m very grateful for.”

He also encourages eligible VCE students to apply for the Gardiner scholarship.

“It’s something I never thought I’d receive. It’s been a huge assistance and an honour to have been a recipient.”

Gardiner Dairy Foundation Tertiary Scholarship applications are now open. To be eligible, students must start their first year of full-time tertiary study in 2022 and be required to relocate from home to undertake their course.

Further information and application forms are available at: www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/ts/

Applications close on November 19 and must be submitted to: scholarships@gardinerfoundation.com.au