LEARNING CURVE: Stanthorpe sheep producer Dan Bourgoure offered Queensland University students Amanda O’Neill and Melanie Bailey some livestock experience on his property, Fiesta.
LEARNING CURVE: Stanthorpe sheep producer Dan Bourgoure offered Queensland University students Amanda O’Neill and Melanie Bailey some livestock experience on his property, Fiesta. Toni Somes

Rural exposure for city students

CITY girls they might be, but it hasn't stopped Queensland University veterinary students Amanda O'Neill and Melanie Bailey from getting their hands dirty.

The pair has spent the past fortnight tackling tasks like mustering and crutching on the sheep property of Stanthorpe's Dan Bourgoure.

When the Bush Tele caught up with them at Warwick sheep sale last Wednesday they described the practical experience as a "great, but sharp learning curve".

When the students are here I make sure we are doing livestock jobs that provide them with relevant experience.

"I am exhausted," Ms O'Neill laughed.

"And I have renewed appreciation for those who work in the bush and for their working dogs.

"It's been great and Dan has let us be really involved in the sheep work he has been doing, which has made it a valuable experience."

For those in the know it will come as little surprise to hear the Southern Downs landholder has created a positive learning environment.

He has been opening the gates of his property to university vet students for more than a decade.

"I used to have more country and more sheep until I retired," Mr Bourgoure laughed.

"And we used to be busy doing a lot of stock work so we were really able to introduce students to the industry on a reasonable scale.

"Now we have just 1200ac and about 600 sheep, so it's probably not as busy, but I still like to think we are able to show them a few things."

He believes work experience in an industry setting can provide vet students with a genuine understanding of life in the bush.

"When the students are here I make sure we are doing livestock jobs that provide them with relevant experience," Mr Bourgoure said.

Over the years he has had "80 or more" students join him in the paddock, sheep yards and shearing shed.

"A while back we used to have 18 or 20 students a year and I liked to think in some small way we were contributing to their skills," he said.

For his latest two visitors, the stay has offered a chance to muster sheep on a quad bike, work in the yards and try their hand crutching, all the while enjoying the Bourgoures' country hospitality.

"We have to do eight to 10 weeks practical experience between first and third year as part of our course requirements," Ms Bailey said.

"So we've just finished our final two weeks and now we start our fourth year of studying and

hopefully we'll graduate at the end of 2014."

For Ms Bailey, who is from the Gold Coast, the chance to "live" on a working sheep property for a fortnight has been educational.

"We so appreciate people like Dan allowing us into their lives for a little while so we can really learn more about livestock," she said.

"And it definitely makes me think a little more about going into mixed practice when I finish, maybe even in a rural setting."

Yet her fellow companion has a different take on career choices now.

"I always wanted to be a vet and I think I would like to work with cats and dogs - I am definitely a cat person," Ms O'Neill admitted.

"But that is not to say it hasn't been great staying with Dan. He's made us feel very welcome and been very gracious about sharing his knowledge with us."



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