Country vet shortage growing concern for farmers

Beef Central, 10/07/2023
It’s getting harder and harder to find large animal veterinarians, farmers say, amid calls for increased training and targeted skilled migration.

Shane Kilby, a cattle producer from Dubbo, will take the issue to the NSW Farmers Annual Conference next week.

“As a livestock producer it’s vital to have a good relationship with a large animal veterinary practice so you can get the care you need, when you need it,” Mrs Kilby said.

“Vets are indispensable for us, whether it’s pregnancy testing, calving or even just looking in on a sick animal.

“Sadly we’re seeing a decline in the number of large animal vets across the state and while those that are around do their best to fit you in, we can’t let the numbers continue to slip.”

While the number of registered vets had increased on average by 3 per cent each year, they were overwhelmingly moving into small animal practice as pet ownership increased.

Mrs Kilby said a motion from the NSW Farmers Dubbo Branch to the Annual Conference would call for investment in a range of measures such as financial incentives to get vets into western NSW, ongoing tax incentives for vets to work in rural areas, and more training places targeting large animal vets training places.

“If we could get the same sort of HECS forgiveness for vets that teachers, doctors and nurses can access, we might get more vets into western NSW,” Mrs Kilby said.

“We would also like to see increased migration of skilled vets to plug the gaps in the short term, and really do more to train more vets for the future, maybe by reviewing the selection criteria for entry into veterinary science.”

Source: NSW Farmers


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  1. Alice Greenup, 11/07/2023

    Glad we are adding one to the industry with our daughter Ruby attending JCU in 2024. However, we understand not all positions were filled this year. Surely, we need every position filled and more placements made available. Trend of predominantly female students continues. What is the reason behind that? What are the males studying?

  2. Jim Rothwell, 11/07/2023

    These are my views not those of my employer. Where to begin? This is such a multifaceted complex story. A few points. The big metropolitan universities have international accreditations so they chase/are forced to chase international full fee paying students – who then go home – so less vets for Australia. The course is expensive to run and enroll in and yes I think HECS relief support is a great idea. Routine jobs that got vets onto farms and provided steady income – such as pregnancy diagnosis are no longer ‘acts of veterinary science’ – so cheaper operators cherry pick that role, farmers cut costs – so less vet income and less rural vets. I believe the Mackinnon program is being mothballed – so that source of skilled veterinary farm advisors might dry up – I certainly hope not!! Trevor Heath years ago showed UQ grads go the country but go back to cities unless they feel useful in country towns, get connected, make friends, get partners etc – my paraphrase – apologies Trevor! Some practices and towns are successful at retaining vets so it is not all doom and gloom. State governments spend less on veterinary officers in the country than they used to (except NSW which has DVs ) so less surveillance – big worry! Livestock producers are not as familiar or comfortable with paying for good advice as farmers are – they pay for agronomy, pesticide, fertilizer advice etc but lots of livestock producers spend big on animal health products without seeking expert veterinary advice – I dont know why – dont get me started on anthelmintics!

  3. vicky watts, 10/07/2023

    We also need Vets to sign off on BioSecurity plans – especially for J-Bas 8 where Tri-annual Johne’s testing is required and this testing is only possible if a Vet collects the blood and sends away samples for testing. Whilst I can collect the blood on farm the Laboratories will no test it unless it is collect by a Vet.
    BioCheck was developed by Vets to assist farmers with preparation of their Biosecurity Plans but this is not possible now if there are not enough Vets to come out to the farm and work through BioCheck with you.
    Alternative is to use another standard form Biosecurity Plan for the paperwork side of things. But who will sign off on the LPA version of a Biosecurity plan if you dont have a regular Vet who knows your farm.
    So we needs Vets to firstly the Tri-annual Johne’s testing and secondly to assist with the Biosecurity Plan.

  4. Chris, 10/07/2023

    Just attended the CSU vets ceremony as exams finished last week. Certainly more “smallies” than large animal vets graduating and big concern is the hecs debt they have to pay back. To make it beneficial for vets to move to country areas would be a step in the right direction

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