Young Albertan aims higher thanks to mentoring program

It’s not every day you meet a person who can lay claim to being Canada’s only something-or-other.

However, Ashley Gaudet will gladly tell you she is Canada’s sole registered veterinary technician with a veterinary technician speciality in clinical practice specific to production animal medicine.

What does that full mouth mean? Equated to human medicine, the 32-year-old is the equivalent of a nurse practitioner — higher than a registered nurse, but below a physician.

Gaudet works for Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Airdrie and puts her special schooling to use every day.

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“I do drug deliveries, post-mortem examinations, and I definitely get lots of questions from newer veterinarians,” she said. “It’s really neat to be included in that way. By working in a fee-for-service setup I get to do more and be of more use to them.”

In addition, Gaudet also visits feedlots and performs implant evaluations, assessing everything from the implant itself to alternate strategies for greater success rates. In a surgery setting, she aids veterinarians by acting as an O.R. nurse, scrub nurse and surgical assistant during procedures such as castrations, prolapses, nerve blocks for dehorning, and epidurals.

“It’s been really neat to have the support from the staff to add those tools to my tool box,” she said. “They let me do things they feel comfortable with because of my credentials and background. I feel good about myself personally and professionally.”

In addition to her day job, she is also a 2017 Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program participant, and is being mentored by purebred Black Angus breeders Rob and Gail Hamilton, who operate just northeast of Cochrane.

The couple is a great resource for Gaudet, who acquired four Red Angus-Red Simmental-crossbred heifers last spring and has since retained two heifer calves and bought two more to use as heifers. The animals are currently being boarded at Schunicht Farms in Strathmore.

Luckily for her, the Hamiltons and her have more in common than just a love of cows.

“Gail and I started from scratch in our operation,” said Rob Hamilton. “We didn’t take over a family farm. We didn’t have something to run with when we started. We started with 30 cows on rented land and both had full-time jobs.”

Hamilton Farms now covers more than 6,000 acres and is home to a herd of 325 purebred Black Angus cows as well as a seedstock operation.

“We are telling Ashley what we’ve done and what might work in her scenario,” Hamilton said. “She will make every ounce of knowledge go to work for her.”

Gaudet is out at their farm as often as possible to have conversations, help out, and make the most of the young leaders’ program.

“They are the exact people I would want to learn from because they’ve been there and done that,” said Gaudet.

As part of the young leaders’ program, Gaudet has road mapped five major goals, including business development, and her candid conversations to date have helped re-enforce her intention to build a purebred Angus herd.

“I asked Rob, ‘Why Angus?’ and he explained that they are an easier breed and that about 20 purebreds are usually worth (the same return on investment as) 100 commercial cows,” she said. “I found that number to be a shock. That ratio is ridiculous.”

Gaudet is also exploring the business of embryos to kick-start her operation, thanks to a chance conversation with Canadian cattle baron Kevin Blair at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver. Once again, it was an opportunity that wouldn’t have happened without the young leaders’ program.

“Rob and Gail are so inviting and honest. It’s a win-win having this mentorship,” she said.

For more information go to the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders website.

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