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It has long been a challenge for the Royal Veterinary College, based as it is in the Hertfordshire commuter belt, to provide enough contact with dairy cattle for its students to build up their experience and confidence. Earlier this year, the college opened a regional centre in Dorset to help students gain experience in the field. John Bonner visited the centre to see how things were going
BATHSHEBA Cottage is situated far from the madding crowds of London, smack in the middle of some of the best dairy farms in the country. So that is why the converted barn in Bere Regis, Dorset, is home for students from the Royal Veterinary College during much of the farm animal component of their final-year clinical rotations.
Until the recent opening of the regional centre, students gained experience with the college's own herd at Boltons Park Farm on the RVC's Hawkshead campus. There is also an arrangement for students to work with staff from the Westpoint Veterinary Group in West Sussex and Kent, and they can also spend rotations at another regional centre, Gelli Aur College Farm in Carmarthenshire.
But the pressure on those clinical resources has increased with the expansion in the student intake – the school now has 215 students on rotations – and the reorganisation in 2007 of the school's undergraduate curriculum, which brought in major changes to the rotations system. Students from that 2007 intake are just finishing their fourth year of study. But they began what are termed their final-year rotations in February 2011 as the first cohort to apply the knowledge learned during the revised course – which takes more of a problem-solving approach than the traditional curriculum to developing the key Day 1 skills they will need in their first job.
An important feature of the …