Working For Us - Staff Stories

Jeff Gerlesits

jeff cowHello – my name is Jeff Gerlesits, a grateful addition to the VetEnt Te Awamutu team. Born in the United States near Chicago, I recently finished my veterinary studies at the University of Illinois.

While many classmates compete for internships, jobs at specialty clinics, and general practice in the states after graduation, I decided to journey to New Zealand. Although the reasons are many, the idea to travel and learn while helping out a country lacking mixed animal veterinarians was my main basis. It is becoming very common in the states for vets to become involved in very small aspects of our profession and specialize. I believe this helps raise the level of medicine while giving clients more options with their pets. However, I hoped to learn as much as possible with a variety of species before deciding and settling in my specific area. With the novelty of James Herriot in the back of my head, and a Kiwi professor in the states, Dr. Tessa Marshall, I was fortunate to land a one year position at VetEnt.

Three months into my Kiwi experience, I could not be more grateful for the opportunities that VetEnt has provided me. The other vets and staff have been unbelievably patient and helpful with me as I work through cases. There have been many times that I have asked for a senior vet to come provide advice or a second opinion out on farm, and I have never received anything but a welcoming hand. In similar respect, the farmers have been patient and helpful with myself regardless of the fact that I am a new graduate and foreigner. In all honestly, I have felt more support in my learning here than anywhere I have ever been.

Although I feel that there is so much to offer in New Zealand and VetEnt specifically, there have been some mild obstacles and growing pains initially. Some obstacles include: converting to Celsius from Farenheight when my last American thermometer broke, driving on the left side of the road (truck has ended up in a few ditches, but no major damage ), understanding Kiwi expressions and accents, transporting my dog overseas (very possible but includes many headaches, blood tests, finances, and a 30 day quarantine sentence), and leaving behind loving family, friends, weddings, and summer (long hard Illinois winter straight into wet, cold New Zealand winter). As you read my drawbacks, it is quite obvious that there are minimal negatives to the actual clinic or New Zealand.


The medicine itself is very comparable to that in the States. Literally every aspect of my large animal base has improved since arriving. Some specific skills that I have either learned outright or improved upon include; how to cast a cow, untwist a uterus (manually or rolling), perform C-Section, replace uterine prolapses, perform fetotomies, and perform a proper physical and lameness exam. I am gaining confidence with the help of our Dairy Team Leader and mastitis specialist, Adrian Joe, into how to effectively prevent and minimize mastitis outbreaks. From a palpation standpoint, there will be plenty of opportunity as the non-cycling and pregnancy checks will begin in the next few months. Relative to small animal and sheep medicine, there are many options at our clinic and the surrounding branches that I plan on helping with as the calving season slows.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not all work here in New Zealand. Te Awamutu is a wonderful little town that is very centrally located on North Island. In under two hours, one could drive to Auckland, Raglan (main surfing beach), both the east and west coasts, ski fields at Ruapehu, Lake Taupo, hot springs at Rotorua, or Waitoma caves.

I could not recommend a more helpful, professional clinic than VetEnt and am happy to help with any questions to those interested in travelling and working in New Zealand.

Sincerely, Jeff Gerlesits

Steve Cranefield

Steve CranefieldFor something completely different I am writing this article from Northern Ireland. I am working over here as part of an exchange programme with Parklands vets - the largest veterinary practice in Northern Ireland. The surgery is situated in Cookstown in the middle of Northern Ireland. It is just to the left of Loch Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles and it looks similar in size to Lake Taupo.

Veterinary life in Northern Ireland is very different from New Zealand which is a reflection of the difference in the farming systems as well. Dairy herds range from 30 to 250 cows with all cows (beef and dairy) housed indoors throughout much of the year. Spring has been late this year so the cows are just going out to graze for part of the day and this will continue until around September when they will be permanently indoors again. 

Fortunately the expectation of endless rain has not materialised and we have had many long hot days around 15 to 20 degrees - long may it last.

Finding your way around as a new vet on the block is a challenge. There are no road numbers or dairy supply numbers and most roads start or end with the word 'bally' so all of the navigation is by directions from the other vets and hopeful recognition of the landmarks they describe as you go!. Getting lost is not uncommon but as long as you have a name everyone is happy to help you out. As you drive around, the farms are distinguished by a cluster of sheds with corrugated iron roofs. Dairy and beef ( called suckler) units all look the same and finding the milking 'parlour' amongst them can be a challenge. Thank goodness the driving is on the left hand side of the road!

The dairy cows are all friesian with a strong Holstein influence and they are producing between 40 to 60 Litres per day on a diet mostly comprising of grass silage, maize silage, and meal. The milking parlours range from 3 bale walk through type sheds to 12 a side herringbone sheds. One progressive client has recently installed two robotic milkers. Milk is supplied to 5 local dairy factories with the payout currently sitting at 21p per litre of milk. Cows calve all year around so there is little seasonal variation.

The bulk of the veterinary work is on individual cows and an average day for a dairy vet is spent treating lame cows, dehorning cattle, calving cows ( both dairy and suckle) and treating sick cows and calves. Because of the value of the stock ( cows are worth between £1000 - 2000 each and ewes around £100 so it is not uncommon to put cattle or sheep on an intravenous drip as part of their treatment. The practice also deals with a large horse population and pig and poultry units which adds further interest to the day.

VetEnt often has the opportunity to offer work placements to Vets from overseas in a number of different positions. Rhona, from Scotland, recently spent time with us and here she shares with you her experiences while working in New Zealand. If you would like to find out more about coming over the NZ, please contact us on

Ben Hodgson

Schering Plough NZ took a small team of Kiwis to the WBC in Hungary between July 6th-11th.

Alongside myself, practicing Vets Katrina Parker, Andrew Weir, Matt O’Sullivan and Tim Scotland also attended, with Andrew Millar and John Moffat doing an excellent job of looking after us.

budapestThe conference itself included a huge number of oral presentations (6 different session streams running continuously) starting at 8.30 and finishing at 6.30 each night. During the day there were also long breaks for viewing the thousands of smaller poster presentations. The course material tended to have a reasonably strong dairy focus but beef cattle, and to a lesser extent sheep, goats, buffalo and Camelids also featured.

For me personally, the applications for NZ farming systems and impacts on our export trade of the infections disease presentations were most interesting: The progress of exotic TSE diseases Scrapie and Mad Cow Disease and the impact of the Northern European Blue Tongue outbreak were interesting topics. A number of sessions were dedicated to Johnes disease and BVD, which have an even more direct impact on NZ.

Continuing research and changes to disease management and quality assurance overseas will mean we need to keep on the ball in NZ to remain competitive.

New Zealand was well represented in the presentations – I saw Scott McDougall, Cord Heuer and John Moffat speak, who all presented material of a much higher standard than average. Much of the research and trial work presented by overseas speakers had either a strong individual animal focus or involved animal numbers to small to be useful.

It must be stressed that by no means was the trip all work – we had plenty of opportunities to explore Budapest and enjoy some fine Hungarian hospitality. The Hungarian word for ‘Cheers’ is pretty much unpronounceable until you have had a couple of pints of Dreher, but we tried to get as much practice in as we could.

A big thanks to Schering Plough for sponsoring and organising the trip.

Ben Hodgson

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