Indonesian immersion

16 March 2018

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students travel to Indonesia on exchange

Final-year Veterinary Medicine students, Tate Cowper and Evelyn Au have returned to Australia after completing a student exchange placement with Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia.

The University of Sydney is in its fifth year of exchange partnership with Gadjah Mada Univeristy and hopes to continue offering opportunities to students to complete public industry and community placements in Indonesia.

To showcase the amazing advantages of the exchange program, Evelyn shared with us her experiences overseas.

In February 2018, Tate and I completed a three-week exchange program at Gadjah Mada University. This trip formed part of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine placement program.

It was an incredible experience which encompassed learning about challenges in the food production industry whilst also experiencing the rich culture Indonesia has to offer.

The tropical climate of Indonesia, close proximity to neighbouring countries, and practices in animal husbandry have contributed to the presence of number of diseases that are exotic to Australia.

It was very interesting to learn about the different approaches used to manage these diseases and to find out how it affects the day to day lives of the public.

Aside from exotic diseases, Indonesia also faces many challenges in beef production due to the high prevalence of reproductive disorders in cows. We spent quite some time learning about contributing factors to this in lectures and discussions and also travelled to smallholder farms where we witnessed first-hand the struggles that are faced.

On the weekends, we were free to explore and visit the sights and to try out plenty of delicious authentic Indonesian food.

During our first week, we joined final-year students completing their reproduction rotation. We attended a lecture on the current status of beef cattle production and the inability of suppliers to meet local demand. This is why Indonesia relies so heavily on export from Australia.

We learnt the basics of using an ultrasound machine, practicing first on cats to understand how to detect pregnancies.

We also spent a day at a government semen collection facility and learnt about the process of semen, quality assessment processes and packaging measures. We finished our first week with a trip to STTP which is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Our second week started with lectures about zoonotic diseases in companion animals and exotic species. Yogyakarta is currently free from rabies however it is endemic in other parts of Indonesia such as Jakarta and Bali.

We learnt about the epidemiology of rabies and the difficulties in persuading owners to vaccinate their animals. This was followed by a trip to Gembira Loka Zoo, where we were given a behind-the-scenes tour and watched Dr Slamet conduct surgery on a number of reptiles.

We visited a government laboratory which had a number of departments including biotechnology, virology, microbiology, parasitology, serology and public health. Their biggest caseload is Avian Influenza (H5N1) detection in local chickens for certification in order to export to other regions and islands of Indonesia. But they also test for other infectious and zoonotic diseases, conduct residue testing, and feed analysis. We were given the opportunity to conduct serology tests to identify individuals testing positive for Avian Influenza.

We were given a tour of a wet market system for meat production and a number of poultry slaughter facilities. We were able to compare the hygiene and practices in a small scale wet market, where live poultry is chosen by the customer and immediately processed at an adjacent slaughter facility, and a large-scale slaughterhouse which employs a production line to supply refrigerated products to supermarket chains. We also visited a government run cattle slaughterhouse.

In our final week we went on field trips to smallholder cattle farming communities and took part in disease investigations. We were involved in the investigation, treatment and prevention of common health issues and also took samples for further diagnostic tests back at the laboratory. One case involved a calf with diarrhoea which was caused by a heavy parasite burden of roundworms. Another case saw a recurrence of hypocalcaemia is a recently calved cow.

In our spare time, we visited beautiful, historical and cultural sights including Borobudor temple – the largest Buddhist temple in the world, Malioboro street for some shopping, the beach, and we even did a jeep tour on the volcano Mount Merapi. Some of the students were kind enough to show us around and take us out to their favourite local restaurants.

This placement has definitely been an eye opening and unique experience. The people I met were so welcoming and excited to introduce us to sights and foods only Indonesia has to offer.

It has helped me to gain insights into the challenges faced in a country where preventive medicine is not routinely practiced and poor economic circumstances dictate animal husbandry practices.

It has also aided my understanding of the role of veterinary medicine for health on a domestic and international level. I greatly hope this program continues, to allow future students the same chance to learn about animal health and production in Indonesia and also for students from UGM to come to Australia.

I am very grateful for this opportunity and would like to thank Jenny-Ann Toribio and Agung Budiyanto for organising this program.