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Foreign-trained vets saving day for large-animal practices

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A surge in foreign-trained vets coming on stream is set to solve a shortage of vets for large animal practices.

Hundreds of Irish veterinary students are now qualifying each year from colleges in Eastern Europe, with the majority understood to be seeking careers in large animal practices.

In recent years it has been difficult for large animal or mixed practice vets to attract the limited numbers of vets qualifying each year, resulting in poor vet coverage for farmers in some regions.

However, according to Veterinary Ireland CEO Finbarr Murphy, the supply issue has eased due to a huge increase in vets from Ireland qualifying abroad.

Overall there has been a big increase in the number of vets registered on the Veterinary Council.

"The trend is more and more Irish students training in veterinary abroad - last year and the year before very significant numbers qualified and started up in practice," said Murphy.

"At the moment there are hundreds of Irish students studying veterinary in three Eastern European colleges alone between Hungry, Poland and Slovakia."

However, Murphy said there are still concerns over getting young vets to stay in mixed practice jobs.

"There are financial and work-life balance issues. The situation in the past where one vet is on call 24 hours a day is something that is unsustainable for future generations of vets," he said.

Attrition

"It's one thing attracting these new vets, but it's the attrition rate that we need to monitor as well because while we might be producing and training the vets, we want them to stay in practice.

"We don't want burnout of these young vets. The job has to be attractive."

Despite the surge in newly qualified vets, Murphy conceded that there can still be some pockets for the country where there are supply issues.

"It can depend on the rota arrangements. If you have a poor rota you won't attract young vets," he said.

Murphy said a significant proportion of the vets qualifying overseas understand the nature of mixed practice in Ireland, understand farming and want to work in large animal practices.

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