The way in which vet practices are owned and operated in Ireland is set to change.

A number of vet practices here have been approached by UK venture capital companies seeking investment opportunities in Ireland.

The Veterinary Council of Ireland recently sought legal opinion on exactly who could own a practice. The advice stated that veterinary businesses and practices can be owned by non-vets including limited companies.

This clarification is likely to accelerate interest from investment firms in the UK and elsewhere to take over vet clinics.

Cattle farmers will be concerned that any switch away from independently run practices will threaten availability of out-of-hours services.

Irish farmers are hugely dependent on the current rapid response service they receive, especially around calving.

Some UK corporate-controlled practices do not regard night-time calving as an emergency, only committing to get on farm within three hours.

This week, one prominent Leinster practice confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal that it has been approached by UK business interests and that all large practices across the country were being looked at. Corporate interest in vet care mirrors the move by private business into human healthcare, seen in Specsavers opticians or Smiles dental clinics.

Venture capitalists have been acquiring businesses in Northern Ireland, with small animal clinics or single-vet practices being preferred.

Investors are taking the view that smaller, independent vet practices will become unviable and larger groups will have more buying power and more ability to retain staff.

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