Matthew Pauls, a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). Photo: Christina Weese.
Matthew Pauls, a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). Photo: Christina Weese.

Cows, curling and clinical practice hit the button for Manitoba vet student

Living in a rural area on the Canadian Prairies often means spending your winters at the curling rink, and for Matthew Pauls, he grew up living that exact lifestyle in the tiny Manitoba community of Purves.

He recalls being in and around rinks for most of his life, whether he was watching his dad curl competitively or curling himself in competitive and fun leagues.

While Pauls enjoys everything about the game that he describes as “the perfect mix of strategy, athletic ability and technical skill,” he particularly liked the fact that he could curl with his entire family. Their team in the local mixed league included him, his parents Steve and Carole, and his older brother Russell.

Last year all of those winter nights at the rink culminated in a chance to follow in the footsteps of his dad and his grandpa, both well-known competitive curlers. In February 2023, Pauls joined his dad and Russell to compete in the Manitoba men’s provincial playdowns — the 2023 Viterra Championship, .

“Getting to play … with my dad and brother was one of the highlights of my life so far,” says Pauls. “I honestly can’t describe how awesome it felt to play on the same ice as some of the country’s best curlers and wear the same zone badge my dad has worn so many times. To be able to do it with my family was even better, and I had an absolute blast!”

Matthew Pauls (right) is an avid curler and has played in both recreational and competitive leagues with his family.  Supplied photo.
Matthew Pauls (right) is an avid curler and has played in both recreational and competitive leagues with his family. Supplied photo.

While the Pauls family has spent lots of time playing together, they’ve also spent many hours working together on their mixed grain-beef farm in south central Manitoba. From a young age, Pauls enjoyed working with their herd of cattle, and over the years his jobs progressed from opening gates and bottle-feeding calves to helping with the sorting and calving as well as checking for general health.

“I’d say the most satisfying part is being able to finish your work out there and see a herd of contented cows,” says Pauls. He adds that he also appreciates working with family and getting the job done together, even if the job has spiked everybody’s blood pressure.

“The other part I really enjoy is being able to work fluidly with the cattle. Once you get enough experience and can read their behaviour, it becomes easier — and lower stress for them — to get them where you need them to go.”

Pauls recalls observing the veterinarians who came to their farm for procedures such as pregnancy checks and caesarean sections. He was always intrigued by their work and thought it would be interesting to have their extensive knowledge and skills.

After a Grade 10 career development class prompted him to research veterinary medicine more fully, Pauls decided to commit himself to pursuing a veterinary career. 

In addition to pushing himself academically, Pauls did a high school internship credit with Pembina Valley Veterinary Clinic in Pilot Mound, Man. — a great experience for him that gave him a realistic view of the veterinary profession.

While Pauls enjoyed working at the clinic with both WCVM alumni, Drs. Mylia Richards (DVM’89) and Christian Scott (DVM’17), he particularly liked attending lots of farm calls with Scott who pushed him to “learn by doing” and gave him many opportunities to observe as well as acquire hands-on experience.

Paul's experiences growing up on a mixed grain-beef farm have shaped his veterinary ambitions of working with production animals. Submitted photo.
Paul's experiences growing up on a mixed grain-beef farm have shaped his veterinary ambitions of working with production animals. Submitted photo.

“Any time I was working with him, he really pushed me to step up to the plate and take a shot at performing procedures … collecting semen on a bull or doing a jugular draw on a cow,” says Pauls. “Those experiences really helped me to become more willing to just try stuff, which I’m finding to be really important in vet school.”

Now a first-year veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), Pauls is happy to be finally training for a specific career and taking classes that have a purpose — acquiring the knowledge he will need to be a clinician.

So far Pauls’ favourite class has been the beef handling lab — he’s “never felt so at home at school” as when he was working the headgate with the cattle. Given his background with beef cattle and rural practice, he anticipates a veterinary career that involves a mixed animal practice and production animals. Pauls would also be happy living close to home so he could help out on the farm, have a few cows of his own — and maybe even get to curl with his family for a few more years.

“I feel that I have a good understanding of the production animal lifestyle, and I can’t really picture myself practising vet med in another environment. Knowing that you’re helping both the animals you treat and the producer you work with is really rewarding, and I know just how much we appreciate the care we’re able to get from our clinic,” says Pauls.

“To be able to provide that same service for the producers in our area would be a dream come true.”