“The highest majority of vets in Ireland are in their 30s and 40s with a significant number in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” according to Niamh Muldoon, Registrar and CEO of the Veterinary Council of Ireland.
She made the revelation during a recent sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on Wednesday, May 10th, 2023, which met to discuss the widely reported call for a new school of veterinary medicine in Ireland.
Muldoon outlined that there are higher numbers on the VCI’s register now than the last five, ten or 15 years ago.
“We have never had more vets on our registers, yet we hear anecdotally that there are increasing challenges around recruitment and retention for rural large animal practice,” she told the meeting.
“Every single year, the number of vets joining our register increases. That is a good thing and probably speaks to the increased demand from students coming from the UK or different programmes across European,” Muldoon explained.
She confirmed at the meeting that the body is in the process of compiling a report, which will “be the first time we have had a clear snapshot” of the age profile of vets and the status of employment – full-time or part-time and in companion animal, mixed, equine, or large animal practice”.
“We have collated lots of information, which now just has to be analysed and put in a report. We would be happy to share that with the committee, whenever it is finalised by the council.”
Demand across all sectors
When asked during the meeting by Deputy Paul Kehoe, about the number of veterinary graduates Ireland requires to meet demands within the small and large animal industry in Ireland, she said, “I cannot give the deputy an exact figure”.
“We know there is demand all across the sector from companion to large animal, and there is some migration within our registers.”
“While I cannot give the deputy a set number, suffice it to say we know that huge numbers of Irish Leaving Certificate students travel across the water to undertake veterinary medicine studies.”
Traditionally, she added, there has always been an association with some of the programmes in Scotland.
She added that, for example, the VCI has always had a number of graduates from the University of Edinburgh coming onto the register every year.
She continued: “We know there is a huge demand for Irish young people coming through the CAO system going abroad.”
“While I cannot give the deputy a set figure, suffice to say that there is a welcome opportunity for additional capacity in veterinary medicine training.”
“It strikes me that there is strong demand in the industry and the sector. Certainly, there is employment for an increased number of vets than there are currently on our register,” she concluded.