Vet technicians have enabled us to offer teat sealing to all our clients without compromising other vet care services.
Vet technicians are fast becoming a highly sought-after addition to New Zealand veterinary practices. They were recently referred to as the “Teslas of the veterinary industry” (efficient and full of skills, yet difficult to replace if something goes wrong).
Here at VetSouth, we are very lucky to have an amazing team of techs to support us and our clients.
So, what do they do? Winton tech Brittany is getting prepared for the busiest time of year for techs, and shares her thoughts on the role:
Vet technicians are the backbone of the clinic. We are smart, organised, well oiled machines.
Technically speaking, I guess you can call us a supportive nurse for large animals. Technicians have become more and more valuable to our vet practices as our client base and the services we provide continue to grow and develop.
What is the biggest part of a tech’s calendar? Teat sealing heifers and drying off cows!
These jobs fill the majority of our year. They are our longest, hardest, but also most rewarding, jobs.
Teat sealing maiden heifers before their first calving can reduce clinical mastitis by 68% in the first two weeks after calving. The majority of heifers we seal are done on one of our purpose built teat sealing trailers.
The Winton clinic runs four of these trailers and Gore will be running three this year, with four technicians on each trailer.
We start teat sealing heifers the second week of April and this carries us through until the second week of July, although we take three weeks in May to mainly focus on drying off herds for clients.
What exactly is teat sealing?
Heifers are loaded onto our customised trailers six at a time and rowed up like they would be in a herringbone milking shed. The trick is to push them on fast enough that they don't have time to think and turn around.
These heifers’ teats are cleaned thoroughly, inserted with a non-antibiotic, internal sealant that forms a physical barrier to bacteria entering the udder, and iodine sprayed. The animals are then let off ready for the next load.
We average between 50-80 heifers an hour, depending on how the heifers run and how dirty their udders/teats are. One of the many benefits of having our purpose built trailers is we can teat seal anywhere from run off blocks to dairy sheds. We go where the heifers are!
Teat sealing has been growing in popularity with each season as farmers recognise the benefits to their herds. VetSouth went from sealing 25,382 heifers between Winton and Gore in 2015 to a whopping 40,100 in 2022. If we only had vets doing this job, as well as their routine work, it would be unsustainable. This is where technicians come in!
We give VetSouth the ability to offer this amazing service to all our clients without skimping on other important vet services, such as calving cows, emergency care and in-depth farmer support.
On top of teat sealing heifers, we help to dry off milking herds. Last year, we dried off 68,800 cows across the East and West clinics - that's 275,200 teats! The majority of this is all done in a three week period.
I think it's fair to say that us techs are superstars! There aren’t many people that enjoy popping on a poncho and being at the business end of a heifer for weeks at a time, but the crew we have is awesome.
We fit this into our busy year with other big seasonal jobs such as disbudding, recording for scanning, blood testing and keeping up to date with WelFarm programme routine work (body condition scoring, tail scoring and locomotion scoring).
I have been a tech at VetSouth for eight years now and still love the job. I get to work outside with some pretty cool animals, alongside an amazing team and with the best farmers.
It's fair to say that if you love doing meaningful work for the dairy industry (and yarning) then tech-ing is for you!