From the age of 13, Alexandra King spent her Easter holidays on her aunt and uncle’s farm in South Ayrshire where she assisted with lambing.
Her first morning on the farm saw her equipped with a glove to conduct an internal examination. “It was by far the warmest place to be on the farm during the cold mornings!” Alexandra laughed.
“From that moment, I knew I wanted to work with animals as a career,” she told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
Many of Alexandra’s childhood memories revolve around farming; her grandparents farmed in Northern Ireland and Scotland before eventually retiring in 1990 - nine years before she was born.
“I was still surrounded in the ways of farming especially when visiting relatives with tasks including bottle feeding lambs and herding cattle.”
Setting her sights on veterinary, the Craigavon, Co. Armagh native attained an expansive experience in different sectors of farming and volunteered in her local vet practice to ensure this was the career that she wanted to pursue.
During Alexandra’s A level year, she obtained a job as a relief milker on a farm with 540 cows and a 70-point rapid exit with an in-parlour feeding system.
After her A levels in June 2017, the 19-year-old began job hunting to earn some money before embarking on the next chapter - furthering her studies.
She secured a position on an Antrim-based dairy farm, where she worked with 100 Holstein-Friesian cows daily, milked in the morning and fed beef cattle at a local out-farm.
In, 2012, she joined her local Young Farmers’ Club – Crumlin YFC and attained a position on the committee as Public Relations Officer as she progressed through the organisation.
Alexandra started obtaining work experience in 2013 and completed 21 weeks’ of animal experience which was vital as many universities that offer veterinary medicine require a moderate amount of work experience.
She met the criteria for her dream course - Royal Veterinary College, London's Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine - a full-time five-year degree programme.
Alexandra was drawn to this course because of the college's reputation, as it is ranked as one of the world’s top veterinary schools.
After further research of the course provider, she discovered that the first two pre-clinical years take place in central London, while students are based at Potters Bar, Hertfordshire for the last three clinical years.
"The mix of city life and country life appealed to me as it was the best of both worlds," Alexandra said.
Alexandra enrolled in the course - Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine at Royal Veterinary College, London - in September-2017 and is now in second year.
“I was apprehensive about having to move from home initially but as I explored the vet schools, the more I knew I wanted to try something different for a few years.”
“To date, I am loving the course; it has certainly fulfilled my expectations and the staff are exceptional and always on-hand for discussion or exploring difficult situations.” She added.
Key concepts are presented repeatedly as students progress through the BVetMed programme. "We have lectures in the mornings and lab practicals and dissections to follow in the afternoon to put theory into practice," Alexandra explained.
“I would highly recommend the course to aspiring vets and although it is a long, demanding course, at the end, you will graduate as a vet and never find a day’s work unenjoyable as you will be doing something you love.”
“The opportunities can stretch far beyond that of being a vet in practice with options of working in research, corporate medicine, teaching, pathology and public health." She added.
Looking forward, Alexandra's short term plan is to complete the next part of work placement; she will travel to Texas in April to a ranch as part of her animal husbandry extra-mural studies.
"It is great that I can get to see different parts of the world while participating in a veterinary course," Alexandra said.
As part of her course, Alexandra must complete 12 weeks of animal husbandry extra-mural studies. Her favourite placement to date saw her gain experience on a pig farm in Co. Down where she was responsible for AI'ing sows, administering iron injections to piglets and assisting in the farrowing house with teething and tailing.
"The mentors on the farm never hesitated to explain anything and gave me a complete knowledge as to how the pig industry runs."
"It assisted me immensely in the practice of my veterinary course, showing me the many intricacies of particular farming areas," Alexandra explained.
The 19-year-old's ultimate goal when she graduates is to practice in different parts of the world and gain a wide knowledge of veterinary skills. “I think the best part of becoming a vet will, of course, be the ability to help animals and actually to have an influence on pet and farm owners on how to keep animal health and welfare to a high standard.”
“The agricultural sector has many challenges and I cannot wait to face some of them as a vet." Alexandra King concluded.
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