The lifestyle block vet: crossing the divide
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The lifestyle block vet: crossing the divide

Providing quality veterinary support of backyard farm animals is a grey area between companion and production animal practice and creates its own set of challenges.

9/04/2018 to 23/07/2018
When: Module 1: 9 April - 21 May, Module 2: 11 June - 23 July
Where: Online VetScholar Course
New Zealand
Presenter: Cristin Dwyer, Naya Bragenberg, Michelle Logan (nee Dicken), Dawn Mills and Daan Vink
Contact: Hannah Schrader
+64 4 495 1140

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Crossing the divide: Feeling confident caring for production animals kept as pets

By popular demand the lifestyle block course is back again!


About this course

The number of lifestyle blocks and small hobby farms are rising rapidly in New Zealand especially around the larger cities and towns. This two module Vetscholar course offers a fantastic opportunity for veterinarians to improve their knowledge and confidence during the handling, examination and treatment of backyard pet pigs, poultry, goats, alpacas, lamas, mini ponies, donkeys and draft horses. Lifestyle block animals are frequently all kept together in the same paddock and are often overfed, underfed or have a poor unbalanced diet.

The course will also cover the medical problems encountered with bottlefed agricultural day lambs and kids as well as touching on ostridges, emus and the challenges of handling highland cattle. Lifestyle block animals can become affected with diseases and health conditions that are entirely preventable if the owners were properly educated on the basics of animal husbandry. Biosecurity is a particular issue on lifestyle blocks and veterinarians need to be knowledgeable in this critical area. Helping you provide excellent education for your lifestyle clients is an important part ofthis course.

Recommended for recent graduates or any veterinarian doing lifestyle block work. This year we are opening registrations to final year veterinary students at a student rate.


Module 1: 9 April - 21 May
Topic 1:Back yard donkeys/miniatures horses/mules/draft horses
Topic 2: Back yard chooks/ducks/turkeys
Topic 3: Alpacas/Ilamas

Module 2: 11 June - 23 July
Topic 1: Back yard and free-range pigs
Topic 2: Back yard and tethered goats
Topic 3: Ag day pets/education of clients/biosecurity on lifestyle blocks

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course you will be:

  • Skills: you will be confident to examine and handle a variety of the animal’s common on NZ life style blocks.
  • Knowledge: you will be familiar with the common diseases of the lifestyle block animals and how to treat them.
  • Attitudes/behaviours: you will no longer feel dread when a chicken appears in your waiting room or you are called to castrate a pig or treat a sick alpaca.
  • Impacts: you will be able to provide a good standard of care for back yard animals and provide education to their owners.
  • You will know the nutritional requirements of back yard stock.
  • You will know where to go for help and further resources.


Participants can choose to do either of the two six week modules or both.

Each module comprises of three topics where there will be provided notes (per topic), an assessment quiz and a discussion forum.

We aim to provide one to two hours of course work per week so participants can expect to spend up to 12 hours per module.

VetScholar courses are not run at set times during the day so it allows the participants to complete it around their work and family commitments.

As with all VetScholar resources, the notes are provided in electronic format. Participants have access to the course material for up to one year from the start of the course and are welcome to download the material for their personal use in future.


Working with lifestyle block clients can be unrewarding and frustrating. The lifestyle block calls and consults are often avoided by veterinarians in practice and it is frequently the new graduates who are elected to take on these unpopular jobs.

Lifestyle block clients often have a variety of “unusual” pets that can be challenging to handle, examine, diagnose and treat. If veterinarians provide a high quality service for all types of lifestyle block animals there will be a number of benefits:

  • The animal will be better of as husbandry, and health and welfare will improve.
  • The client will be better off as they can learn more from the veterinarian and the veterinary clinic. Their animals will be happier and healthier
  • The veterinary business will grow with the increasing numbers of lifestyle block clients.
  • The veterinarian will be better off as increased knowledge and skills in the lifestyle block area will increase job satisfaction and add value to the business and lifestyle block client.

With the "non core" companion and farm animals, small changes based on good veterinary advice can have huge positive welfare outcomes for the back yard animals. Isn't this why many of us became vets? This course will enable you to "make a difference".


Michelle Logan (nee Dicken) MA VetMB CertAVP(ESST) FANZCVS (Equine Medicine) is a registered Specialist in Equine Medicine and a RCVS Advance Practitioner in Equine Soft Tissue Surgery. She graduated in 1999 and since then has worked mainly in mixed practice apart from an Equine Medicine Residency at Massey University. Michelle also has an interest in equine stud work and foal critical care and is presently involved in research into Equine Metabolic Syndrome funded by the NZERF.

Cristin Dwyer BS (Animal Science) BVSc PGCertEdu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from UMass Amherst in 2003 and qualified as a veterinarian from Massey in 2008. In 2015 she gained a PostGradEdu certificate and is currently continuing her studies in adult education. Cristin is a lecturer at Massey in the Farm Services department with a special interest in lifestyle clients. She has recently introduced a herd of alpacas and llamas to the Large Animal Teaching Unit (LATU) in order to improve the veterinary students’ level of confidence and exposure to camelids prior to graduating. Cristin lives with her husband Scott and two young children on a lifestyle block. Cristin is passionate about using education as way to improve the welfare of animals kept on lifestyle properties.

Dawn Mills BVSc, MANZCVSc (Poultry Health) is a Massey graduate of 1981, and holds two Australian College memberships: Avian Medicine (caged & Aviary Birds) and Poultry Medicine. Dawn works part time in mixed practice dealing with small animals (and of course birds and poultry)! The other part of the time Dawn works for a commercial poultry company. Rob and Dawn have kept a flock of Finn sheep on their lifestyle block for the past 20 years, so have lots of experience with small farm sheep problems. Dawn has always had a strong interest in preventative medicine and animal welfare.

Naya Bragenberg MSc DVM is a veterinarian and animal welfare inspector with MPI. She is from the USA with a background in both biology and wildlife biology. Before joining the Post Border Animals Response Team in MAF Biosecurity New Zealand in 2007 she worked in private practice (both mixed and small animal) in the Wellington region. In 2011 Naya and her husband started a small commercial pig herd of heritage breed pigs and now manage a 70 sow farrow-to-finish free range pig farm in the Wairarapa. They produce pork for supply to chefs and specialty small-goods producers. Naya also completed a MSc in Veterinary Epidemiology and Veterinary Public Health and hopes in the near future to open her own small farm veterinary service.

Daan Vink DVM, PhD is a veterinary epidemiologist, specialising in research, biosecurity and risk analysis. He has worked in the NGO sector, academia and public-sector veterinary services. His expertise can be broadly divided into programme management, applied epidemiological research on infectious livestock diseases, and animal health surveillance. After having worked at Massey University EpiCentre (2007 – 2012), he now works within MPI’s surveillance and incursion investigation team.

CPD points

Activities in this course can be recorded under either continuing veterinary education or collegial learning activity.

Pricing Information

NZVA member
1 module: $450
2 modules: $650

NZVA non-member
1 module: $650
2 modules: $850

1 module: $100
2 modules: $200

*Prices are inclusive of 15% NZ GST.

Terms and conditions

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