When is the best time for a student to visit?

Vet Students – work experience 

Clutha Vets clinics in both Balclutha and Milton have a busy small animal schedule in which a range of interesting medical and surgical cases is seen all year round.  Two or three small animal vets work fulltime in Balclutha, and usually one in Milton.

The large animal work is more variable depending on the time of year, and it is worthwhile giving consideration as to which month would be most worthwhile for you to come and visit us.  This way you can get the most out of it and see the things that you want to.

The strength of our agricultural economy is built around the efficiency of feeding grass outside, when it grows. Thus we aim to have both dairy cows and ewes at peak lactation in the late spring, to maximise the efficiency of converting growing grass into animal protein.  For this reason, our farming system is highly seasonal, to a much greater extent than most overseas people realise.  Nearly every dairy cow in the country calves in August - September; they all need to get back in calf in November - December; they all get preg tested in January - March; and they are all dried off in May. Hardly any cows are in milk in June and July, and the dairy factories shut down for two months.  There is some variation in timing around the country, but that is the overriding pattern.

What this means for a rural vet practice, with a high component of clinical work as dairy, is that our calendar is highly seasonal too. We do a lot of particular jobs for a couple of months, then all of a sudden that job stops, and we start the next seasonal task, and are very busy with that for a couple of months, until it is time to move to the next one. All peri-calving and neo-natal work (calvings, mastitis, calf medicine, reproductive work) occurs in a short period from August to November.


The main activities for large animal work occur mostly within the timeframes given below:


  • Calving from late July until the end of October, with work slowing down into November.
  • Disbudding calves from September to December.
  • Pregnancy testing from mid January on into May.  Usually done with back pack scanners and individual head sets, checking empty cows manually.
  • Reproductive services (metrichecking and CIDRs) in October, November and December.


  • Ram palpations and vasectomies from January to March.

Beef Cattle

  • Pregnancy testing in March and April.
  • Dehorning and castrating bull calves from February to April.


  • TB testing mainly in late summer and autumn.
  • Develvetting from October to early February.

There are various other large animal jobs that occur all year round such as equine work, individual sick animal visits, lame cow treatment, emergencies, and the occasional goat and alpaca visit.

Please phone or email us at the clinic if you would like further information on what to expect if you have a particular time in mind in which you would like to visit.

For Nothern hemisphere students please be aware of the seasons in New Zealand.