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Opinion: Need to develop vets that are willing to calf cows and lamb sheep

In this article, INHFA president, Vincent Roddy, outlines why his organisation believes developing vets for Irish farming must be a key priority of a new vet school.

As Minister Harris and McConalogue work on the development of a new veterinary school, we, the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), are demanding that the new school prioritises developing vets for large farm animal practice.

There is a need to develop vets that are willing to calf cows and lamb sheep. There are growing concerns that if the current trends continue, we will not have enough vets to do this work.

The INHFA has, he continued, written to both ministers detailing our concern and outlining a strategy to address this issue.

Need for farm vets

In this letter, we focused on the application process for the new school and detailed how the current model is not delivering enough farm vets that are willing to stay in the practice.

In 2021, 70% of vets going on the Irish vet register were educated outside of Ireland, and 45% of those were non-Irish.

While no farmer will have a problem with a non-Irish vet, the reality is that these vets are less likely to stay here, which is why we need to address the problem through an Irish veterinary school.

In our proposal to both ministers, we have stated and recommended that the new school would have a minimum points requirement of 400 points (currently is 600 points).

In addition to this, applications will be taken from each of our agricultural colleges for the top five students that are interested in veterinary practice.

Moreover, in following this model, we will provide a viable route to becoming a vet for those students that are interested in working with farm animals.

Entry requirements

In addition to the 400-point requirement, these students will also need to provide a portfolio indicating their skills and ability.

This model is currently favoured by Harper Adams Keele Vet School in England, who has recognised a similar problem in England with regard to training vets for farm practice.

We welcome the proposals for a new vet school which he maintained is long overdue.

However, it is vital, especially for western seaboard counties, that we train vets that are willing to go out on a dark and wet night to calf down a cow or provide vital advice and support to our sheep farmers.

These vets will most likely be found in secondary schools across our farming communities, and this is why it is vital we provide them with a route into veterinary practice.”

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