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NZ faces possible shortage of rural vets

1 June 2005

NZ faces possible shortage of rural vets

The veterinary industry is developing specific strategies to retain more vets in rural practice.

Retiring Veterinary Association president, Dr Ross Woods, said there is a looming shortage of experienced vets in rural practice and there is an urgent need to retain good practitioners in that sector of the industry.

"The rural sector has a succession problem," Dr Woods said. "Staff retention in rural practice is a bigger challenge than initial recruitment to the industry."

Dr Woods said the industry's rural sector has a large number of older male practitioners but 75 percent of younger graduates are now female. They tend not to stay in rural practice as long as their male colleagues.

The industry is tackling the problem with long-term strategies aimed at improving the business model of rural practices to provide better career and earnings opportunities for younger practitioners.

This includes encouraging smaller practices to amalgamate into bigger businesses that offer more scope and better conditions for skilled staff.

The industry is also encouraging the use of technicians to reduce demands on vets and to improve working conditions.

"A third component is shifting farmer perceptions of rural vets," Dr Woods said.

"Currently they tend to be seen as a resource to call on reactively when, in fact, they should be used as a value added service that provides strategic advice on planning and managing the farm's long-term business activities."

There are approximately 600 vets in rural practice. Dr Woods expects the retention strategies to alter the demographic of rural vets over the next five to 10 years.

He said a vibrant rural veterinary sector will improve New Zealand's ability to react to bio-security threats, it can better address and manage animal welfare issues and it will result in additional productivity gains for the farming sector.


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