Reflecting on last Summer’s work experience 

Last summer, while all my friends kicked back, donned bikinis and laid out in the sun, I was pulling on overalls and wellies and heading out to complete some of my work experience.

Work experience is important. A good placement will leave you both feeling confident and competent as well as with some of the most amazing memories. In first year, they will encourage you to branch out and to travel around the country for your work experience and not just go visiting the neighbours. So that’s what I did last summer.

I went to a;

  • Pig farm in Limerick
  • Small animal veterinary hospital in Dublin
  • Equine veterinary hospital in Kildare
  • Stud farm in Germany

The biggest step out of my comfort zone was the pigs; oh lordy, the pigs. Whilst you always hear about the smell, no one ever warns you about the noise. I worked on a huge piggery with over 5,000 animals (at different stages) on site. The sow house had maybe 800 pigs at any given time; it sounded like Jurassic park. No exaggeration. The squeals and roars were unbelievable.

As the only girl in the entire place, I was slightly molly coddled for the first few days. Usually, this annoys me but it meant I didn’t have to do some of the more unpleasant jobs so I didn’t mind. Pigs are known for being smart, what I found is that they are also bloody rude animals. They will run straight through you, won’t bother going around, they bite and will eat your wellies, clothes or anything else that gets close enough, they puck and stand on you more than any other animal I’ve ever worked with. And the boars are worse, you don’t know bruises until you’ve seen the imprints of the two front legs of a boar on your hip bones.

The lads I was working with were fantastic. They let me try anything I was comfortable enough to. During the week we did loads of AI (artificial insemination), pregnancy scanning, clipping tails and teeth, vaccinations, treatment of injuries, weaning and of course farrowing.  If you’ve ever vaccinated weanling cattle you know it’s no easy task but I guarantee you’ve never seen the mayhem of running around after 70 80kg young pigs with a vaccination gun and a bottle of spray paint.You very quickly learn how to retrieve the top of your needle from the neck of a pig that ran away too fast, dodge flying trotters and simultaneously jab and mark.



Tips for working with pigs;

  • If they’re running don’t get in the way
  • Don’t wear a watch or any other jewellery; the smell will get stuck on it!
  • Alamycin is the farm equivalent to 7UP
  • Steel toe capped wellies will save your life
  • Pig houses are warm, very warm; don’t be too set on wearing your heavy dark navy overalls
  • Piglets are exceptionally cute, they also fit nicely into your bag if you want a souvenir


By far and above my favourite experience of the summer was the ten days I spent in Germany on the stud farm. Horses have always been my forte. And, it’s always nice working with animals you love. It wasn’t just the animals that made this experience incredible; it was the people too. A huge aspect of veterinary that I wasn’t really aware of before I started is the social side of the course. The people I was working with in Germany were amazing; they were funny, welcoming, helpful, kind and in true German style; kept trying to feed me alcohol. The entire place over there was incredible. I’d never been to Germany before but it’s beautiful and so picturesque. A double sided American style barn with beautiful thoroughbred horses running in the nearby paddocks; heaven.



I was thrown in the deep end helping with all the day-to-day chores on the farm. We had to do twice daily checks on the mares with foals at foot as well as the “golden oldies” (the retired mares). There were also several yearlings that needed to begin to be bitted and to be prepared for yearling sales. This involves getting them used to bridles, grooming and being handled and led on  a lead rope. There were also a couple of yearlings needing veterinary attention with various aliments ranging from bilateral osteocondrosis desicans to simple strained tendons.

While I was there they got a yearling colt over from France; we named him Francois. When he arrived first he was let out into the paddock alongside my flat. He seemed very calm and sweet; a lovely pony. We all went for lunch and  let him settle in. 20 minutes later all hell was breaking loose; Francois was braying and whinnying bolting from one corner of the field to the other bucking and rearing. Insanity is…Talking to the horse in French , the assistant stud manager in English and another worker in very broken German while a valuable horse decides it would be fun to try and break his own neck flipping and skipping around the place.

While I was there we vaccinated all the mares and foals, wormed all the animals on site, pared some of the hooves that needed it, started grooming the yearlings for the first time (that one was fun) , treated foals with umbilical hernias, pregnancy checked mares using an ultrasound scanner and tonnes more.

Work experience give me the chance to get out of my comfort zone and discover more about different industries and areas of veterinary I would never have thought of before.

As usual, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me through the comment box below!