As dairy farmers you are constantly thinking about safeguarding the future of your herd, your heifer replacements are paramount to your business’ long term success. As farm vets we are no different, and yes, I am about to draw similarities between our students/ new graduates to your dairy heifers…
The stats of new graduates coming into the farm veterinary industry are a little concerning (from BVA 2019 survey of the veterinary profession). Only 3.2% of vets go into farm animal/ production animal medicine. Combine this with the negative effect Brexit has had on our European colleagues coming to the UK to support the profession, and the number of vets currently leaving, it is not surprising farm animal practices across the country are experiencing difficulty recruiting farm veterinary surgeons.
It’s not just the old and lame vets that are leaving the herd (sorry Den!!) In 2021, 45% of vets leaving the profession had been in the profession for four years or less, imagine 45% of your cull animals being your heifers! Our clients at Whitchurch will be used to seeing our ‘dairy interns’ and those in Derbyshire are now familiar with Mikayla often shadowing and learning from more experienced vets, this process of a soft introduction is essential for our newest members of our profession to learn the necessary skills required and to be supported throughout, hopefully gaining the confidence and enjoyment to remain a farm vet for many years to come. Behind every good farm vet, there have been many supportive farmers, colleagues and obliging cows!
However, before you start to think that we all dislike our jobs and want to leave, the truth is actually far from it! When surveyed in 2019 by the BVA, farm animal vets had the highest job enjoyment when compared to small animal and equine vets and the top answer for why we like being a vet was due to the ‘client relationships’, so essentially, it’s down to you!
So, our job as existing farm animal vets (and indeed farmers) is to showcase how great being a farm animal vet can be. Which is why we really value that so many of our clients are welcoming to students. When surveyed most vet students start their studies being open to working as a farm animal vet and most students are eventually put off a career in farm animal practice for a few main reasons.
One of the main reasons is that students at the time of graduating have not had the same amount of experience on farms as they have had in small animal or equine environments. Therefore, they have less confidence in pursuing a career in farm vet medicine due to it being further out of their comfort zone.
It is therefore our collective responsibility as an industry to try and welcome in students from all different backgrounds to have exposure to farming. As I am sure many of you will agree, the majority of students that come on placements for experience, be that through us as your vet or directly to yourselves, bring a contagious enthusiasm and keenness to learn. It is from these interactions, conversations and practical tasks that the next generation will ‘catch the farming bug’, just as I did, and hopefully will be the farm vets of the future. Secondly, if these students still choose to not pursue a career as a farm vet, they will have been exposed to the high welfare and environmental standards of British farming, the compassion and innovation of British farmers and the wonderful animals we care for, and this can only be a good thing for educating the public about our industry.
So my final word is just to say ‘Thank you’. Thank you for all the times you have made us a brew at the end of a routine or a difficult call, thank you for the jokes and stories, and above all, thank you for being supportive to our students and newest graduated members of the team as it is them that are the future of our business, just as those calves down the yard are yours.