AgriSETA Learner Connect: Meet a veterinarian

Not to be Missed

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If you’re the type person who can get excited about relocating two elephant bulls to a new reserve, listen up. It might be worth your while to consider study and career opportunities in agriculture, and particularly a career in veterinary science.

Just ask the 32-year-old Dr Luca Mendes, who believes a strong connection with animals and the environment steered him to this dream job. Through diligence and a commitment to pursuing his dream he became a practicing veterinarian at the Ikhala Veterinary Clinic in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape.

Since he completed his studies he’s had many career highlights. This includes relocating two elephant bulls as well successfully performing his first major orthopedic operation. That means he performed surgery on an animal to treat a disorder of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Mendes advises future veterinarians to use their high school days to spend some time at a local vet. This is where sick animals, usually pets like cats and dogs, are treated. But if you are keen on seeing vets work with bigger animals like cattle, you can also team up with a farmer who usually works a specific vet.

“You’ll be surprised by the diversity within this career and field of study,” says Mendes. If this career interests you, follow the links below to learn more about how you can get involved. Through the AgriSETA Learner Connect initiative we want to help guide learners fill the scarce and critical jobs in the agri sector. You can also tune in to 19 different radio stations across Mzansi to get top agri career tips from AgriSETA.

After listening to Dr Luca Mendes veterinarian at the Ikhala Veterinary Clinic we don’t think you’ll need much convincing to choose agriculture…

1Could you sum up your job for us? I work at a busy, mixed practice where we deal with all animal species, ranging from hamsters and budgies through to dogs, cats, cattle, horses, and wildlife. Besides this, I am responsible for managing the business side of the clinic therefore working as a veterinarian and a business manager.

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2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? Work starts at 08:00. From this time, anything is possible. The day may entail cattle or horse work, surgeries of various difficulties, routine consultations and vaccinations, and then reading up and studying difficult cases. The day also involves a significant amount of interacting with clients, making sure they understand their animal’s condition and how we plan to improve that animal’s life.


What qualification do you need for this career? You need a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree to be a veterinarian. Alternatively, the work environment supports different careers like animal health technicians, veterinary nurses, receptionists, administrative assistants, groomers etc. It really is a multi-faceted environment to work in.

4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? You must enjoy problem-solving, engaging with people, be willing to get dirty and be in new and uncomfortable situations, have motivation to take on new challenges, and have a passion for animals and the environment.


5What subjects do I need to become a veterinarian? A national senior certificate with a Bachelor’s pass. At university, you can also acquire a Bachelor of Science degree.

6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? I have worked in the veterinary sector since 2012. Very often, your office is the outdoors and nature. You get to work and live in beautiful parts of the country and have a career that challenges you daily to be better. Agriculture is real. You can touch and feel it and try to understand the complexity of nature as a result.

7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments?Relocating two elephant bulls to a new reserve, walking black rhino for travel and relocation, and performing my first major orthopedic operation successfully count among my proudest moments!

8What do you do when you’re not at work? Reading, birding, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, camping, going to the beach, gardening, woodwork, and relaxing at home.

9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? If you enjoy working with animals and the outdoors or if you are a functional problem solver and not squeamish, spend time at your local vet or with a farmer and get to experience what working with animals in a professional context is all about. You will be very surprised at the diversity within these fields.

10Where can I study to become an animal heath specialist? The tricky thing is only one university in South Africa offers a degree in veterinary science – the faculty of veterinary science at the University of Pretoria. Veterinarians who qualify outside the country can be registered to practise in South Africa only if they pass a special examination. Admission to the veterinary science programme at University of Pretoria’s Onderstepoort campus is by selection as the number of places in the programme is limited. Click here for detailed admission details.

How to listen to AgriSETA Learner Connect:

Option 1: Click here to listen on Spotify (all mobile and other devices).
Option 2: Click here to listen on any Apple device.
Option 3: Click here to listen on Google Podcasts.
Option 4: Click here listen using this player. Just click “play”.

Catch AgriSETA Learner Connect on these radio stations:

  1. Waterberg Stereo: Bela Bela, Brits, Naboomspruit, Pietersburg, Pretoria, Thabazimbi, Tzaneen  – 104.9 FM
  2. Waterberg Stereo: Thabazimbi, Naboomspruit – 104.9 FM
  3. Laeveld Stereo: Nelspruit – 100.5 FM
  4. Lichvaal Stereo: Lichtenburg – 92.6 FM
  5. Overvaal Stereo: Viljoenskroon, Parys – 96.1 FM
  6. Maluti FM: Bethlehem – 97.1 FM
  7. Rosestad FM: Bloemfontein – 100.6 FM
  8. Wild Coast FM: East London – 98.6 FM
  9. Gamka FM: Oudtshoorn – 87.6 FM
  10. Kouga FM: Humansdorp – 97.8 FM
  11. Eden FM: Hessequa, Kannaland, Karoo, Oudtshoorn, Plettenbergbaai, Riversdale, Uniondale – 93.8 FM
  12. Radio Overberg: Bredasdorp – 98.4 FM
  13. Caledon FM: Caledon – 89.3 FM
  14. Whale Coast FM: Hermanus – 96.0 FM
  15. West Coast FM: Vredenburg – 92.3 FM
  16. Lara FM: Springbok – 91.6 FM
  17. NFM: Okiep – 98.1 FM
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