Just half of the veterinary students who study abroad return home to practice in Ireland in what retired Cork vet Ian Fleming described as a "brain drain" from the industry.

On average, 120 veterinary students graduate abroad every year and just 60 of them come back to join the Irish register, he said.

Fleming is a member of the working group for the new veterinary school and was in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday discussing the creation of the new school.

"We've a brain drain here straight away, we're losing half the number of Irish students who go abroad, they never return to the country.

23% of vets in Tipperary were over the ages of 60

"Last year, we got 80 graduates out of a course in UCD that produces 82 graduates a year, on average. We got 80 of them on the register, some of those will have gone away to come back again, but usually the average is between 70 and 80 on an annual basis," he said.


Highlighting the aging profile of vets in Ireland, Fleming said that 23% of vets in Tipperary were over the age of 60.

"At the moment, on average, 18% of the vets on the register are above 60 years of age.

"We found that the Munster area generally was well above the average. You're talking 21% or 22%, and in Tipperary's case 23%, of the vets are over 60%.

"There is a huge issue out there. This issue was brought home to me by a colleague who works in a town in Kerry who told me that in his town, there are five individual practices; one of the vets is in his 80s, two are in their 70s, one is in his 60s and another in his 50s.

"There is a real issue there and the need for a new school in Ireland is vitally important," he said.

Inspection work

Although there has never been as many vets on the register in Ireland (3,300), a lot of these are semi-retired people who are still on the register doing inspection work, vet and member of the working group Jimmy Quinn told the committee.

The other representative of the working group who was in front of the committee on Wednesday was Liam Moriarty, who made a strong case for the new school to be located at the University of Limerick.