African vets ready to answer Ireland's call

Donegal practice recruiting staff from Botswana

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The worsening shortage of young cattle vets has forced one large practice in Donegal to look to the southern African state of Botswana for suitable staff.

Gerard Roarty of the Donegal Animal Hospital in Letterkenny said it was proving extremely difficult to hire Irish vets for big animal work and many practices were now looking to Eastern Europe and beyond to fill posts.

He claimed the ongoing difficulty in hiring vets for cattle work could jeopardise the future of beef and suckler farming in remote parts of the country.

"If we advertise a job for a vet for small animals only, we are inundated with applications - our email would be choked up.

But nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to work with cattle," Mr Roarty said.

Mr Roarty is currently looking to hire a vet but he couldn't get an Irish graduate and he is now in discussions with a vet from Botswana who studied in Glasgow.

Earlier this year Veterinary Ireland claimed there were up to 110 unfilled posts for vets in large animal practices around the country. However, many in the sector believe there are even more vacant positions, with vets in some areas not advertising jobs because they know they won't get applications.

Mr Roarty said the situation in some parts of the country was now becoming critical. The absence of vet cover could end up excluding farmers from keeping cattle, he claimed.

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"If a cow in the middle of the Bluestack Mountains or out in Gweedore needs a Caesarean section, then someone has to be there to do it," he said.

However, he maintained that it was becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee veterinary cover.

Mr Roarty worked as a vet in North America, Australasia and Africa before returning to establish the practice covering northwest Donegal with his brother Ciaran.

"The problem now is that graduates are travelling abroad and working in small animal practices and they're not interested in taking jobs with cattle at all when they come home," he contended.

The Donegal vet claimed the CAO points system and the entry criteria for the UCD veterinary college were partly to blame for the drift away from big animals.

Young people who had an interest in veterinary and farming were finding it increasingly difficult to get the points for the UCD course.

The entry requirement for veterinary medicine in UCD this year was 559 points.

He maintained that a certain number of places on the UCD veterinary course should be reserved for students who had completed an agriculture qualification and shown an interest in working in the farming industry with large animals.

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