Spring is a time most farmers love and hate in equal amounts. When it goes well, there is that huge sense of fulfilment but when it gets challenging it can be very hard work and difficult.

Family, other people working on the farm and the farm owner are critical at this time of the year as they bear the brunt of the daily workload where very little is done in the working day as mother nature calls at the most unexpected of times.

The other person not on the farm every day but critical at difficult times is the farm vet. He or she is usually called when all other avenues have been explored and for many the last resort is to involve the vet. The availability of vets where farming is strong and stock numbers are high is not a problem. However, in some parts of Ireland, vets are not always able to get out to calls as quick as they would like because the distance to travel farm to farm and the workload make it impossible.

Veterinary intervention on dairy farms has been much reduced in recent times. Farmers use much more artificial insemination that has been tested for calving ease so hence help at calving has much reduced. Vaccinations and participation in national eradication programmes is now part of the cost structure and has reduced the number of sick calves on a lot of farms. However, while much progress has been made, there are problems that return each year as normal as night follows day such as bloat in calves, milk fever, joint ill in lambs, pneumonia, etc, and it is for these reasons that vet care is essential and much required.

Last week, we heard that some 33% of vets that completed a survey suggested they would sell their practice because of the work-life balance challenges. Farmers need to have a discussion on how large animal vets will be part of the farming network into the future.

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