Otago vet Amy Watts on starting her own practice


Independent vet Amy Watts, of Black Sheep Veterinary, seen with her dog, Weka, has learned a lot in the year since starting her own practice. Photo / Valu Maka

Amy Watts has taken a far-reaching path in her quest to become a veterinarian.

Growing up on a sheep and beef farm in Waipukurau, she worked the land with her parents like most farm kids do and wanted to become a veterinarian to continue working with animals.

She went to college after high school and took pre-vet science courses at Massey University, but did not score high enough to be selected for the course.

Watts, better known to her clients as Amy the Vet, didn’t let this setback stop her from tending to cattle.

“I raised calves on a 2,000 cow dairy farm for the spring, then went to Australia and traveled.”

Her time in the UK and Ireland included the usual OE recesses of nanny, bartender and waitress, but she was also able to earn money riding horses in Yorkshire and Warwickshire and worked as a groom in Ireland.

She flew in Zimbabwe and traveled overland through Africa to Cape Town.

Back home and ready to face academia again, Watts was accepted into the Veterinary Science course at Massey as a mature student.

“Vet school was five years, and I spent my summers shepherding,” she said.

“Then I graduated and moved to work in Winton.”

This job was at a company with 20 or more veterinarians, where she focused on beef cattle, sheep, and deer.

In 2013 she moved to Alexandra to join another large firm, where she worked for 18 months before returning to Australia to round up cattle near Mt Isa in North West Queensland and the Northern Territory.

“It was awesome – it was really cool,” she said.

The trip also cemented in her mind that she loved being a vet, so she took a job at Timaru and then found herself in Ranfurly, working for a practice that allowed her time off during the slower winter period. to travel or to gather.

In early February last year, after suggestions and whispers of support from some of her clients to move into private practice, she decided to “go for it”.

Last winter she worked a few mornings on farms to supplement her vet work, but she was now working as a ‘100%’ vet and had brought in a part-time worker to help her with the less valued part. from his work.

“There’s always a lot of paperwork involved as a veterinarian and then more associated with running a practice,” she said.

The best part of his job is the relationship with his customers, “getting involved in their farms and being included in their decisions”.

Specializing in beef cattle, sheep and deer, with a few dairy cow jobs added, her work is wide-ranging, including blood testing, pregnancy testing, ram health, velveting and managing the pest resistance.

When the ODT caught up with her last month, she had a deer’s blood tested in the morning at a farm in the Cardrona Valley before heading to another just up the road to pat down the rams, verifying that they were “fit for duty” and free from disease. .

The ODT then joined her the following week in Becks as she tested dairy cows for pregnancy on the 8,000ha beef, sheep and dairy farm at Glen Harrex.

She is President of the Deer Branch of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, one of only 11 New Zealand members of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Science in Medicine of Sheep, and has served as a Board Observer of Deer Industry New Zealand in 2021.

She said she has never encountered any obstacles as a female veterinarian.

“I’ve always been in the farming industry and it’s all about earning respect and doing a good job,” she said.

Willy Scurr is co-owner of 5,200 ha of Cardrona Valley Farms, which manages 13,000 units of sheep, cattle and deer.

Scurr had used Watts’ services for about five years and he said he really loved her both as a vet and as a person and helped her start her own practice.

“It’s a great thing to go out on your own and go for it,” he said.

“It’s the best thing she’s ever done.”

Hamish MacKay owns a 14,000 ha cattle, deer and sheep farm further down the Cardrona Valley, and also stayed with Watts when she started out on her own.

He said it was always good to support independent practices and he was impressed with Watts’ knowledge of large animals and his manner with livestock.

“She is pleasant to deal with, quick and efficient and has a great knowledge of the industry,” he said.

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