Shortage of vets is 'crisis for farmers'
Young vets are turning their backs on large-animal practices due to poor working conditions and low pay, says a top veterinary surgeon.
A system similar to Caredoc, Dubdoc and Southdoc is now called for to stem the loss of vets as the situation reaches crisis levels.
Outspoken vet and Herald columnist Pete Wedderburn said young colleagues were no longer willing to be on call 24 hours a day or to work seven days a week in poor working conditions and for poor pay.
"Gone are the days of post-World War II Yorkshire Dales vet James Herriot being called out in all types of weather with a smile on his face," he said.
"Rural vets and young graduates are no longer willing to accept this sort of life. We are, after all, in a new century. Living in the past is unacceptable in veterinary terms.
"Young vets are graduating from the Veterinary College in UCD and not staying here because of conditions and pay.
"The fear is that we [veterinary authorities] are doing too little, too late.
"There is this myth that vets have an easy life. Veterinary is a vocation and there is nothing comfortable about that. Many are living hand-to-mouth in a bid to make ends meet."
A recent study revealed that 110 vet posts are vacant nationwide.
Dr Wedderburn warns that many new graduates are turning their backs on large-animal country practices to work in small-animal urban clinics or to work abroad.
Prof Michael Doherty, the Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine in UCD, said the lack of vets was impacting on "small farmers" in counties such as Donegal and Mayo.
"There is a challenge in providing veterinary services to the remote areas of the west and north-west of the country and the Minister of Agriculture is aware of that," he said.