Deputy Pearse Doherty is calling on the Government to do more to help Donegal farmers experiencing difficulties accessing veterinary services.
His comments come as the sector continues to grapple with an acute shortage of suitably qualified vets which is leading to succession issues in many rural practices.
The Donegal TD, who is expected to raise the issue with the Minister in the Dáil later this week, said a chronic shortage of vets across Donegal and indeed across huge swaths of rural Ireland is creating huge problems for our farming communities.
“Many farmers here have gotten in contact with me over the past number of months to express their great frustration at being unable to access veterinary services or even make contact with a vet as practitioners here are fleeing the industry in their droves.
“It’s understood that many young vets are reluctant to take up posts in rural practices because of longer working weeks, rostering issues, unattractive salaries and an absence of upskilling opportunities.
“Similarly, many vets are being put off setting up here due to the high costs involved in financing the purchase of a practice and the increased overheads of running the business.
“This landscape is leading to succession issues in many rural practices and over the last few months we’ve actually seen a number of practices close across the county.
“One local suckler farmer I meet recently said to me when discussing the issue that he couldn’t find a vet to call out to his farm for ‘neither love nor money’, such is the scale of the problem facing Donegal’s farmers.
“And farmers could face further difficulties when trying to avail of veterinary services or getting vets to call out to their farm owing to Brexit.
“This is because as part of the government’s contingency planning, the Department has invited vets to register for Border Inspection Posts at several of our ports and, given the number of vets which may take up these new roles, this could exacerbate the shortage of large-animal specialists even further.”
He added that many of the farmers he has spoken with in recent weeks are also saying that the shortage is pushing up vet fees and that they are seriously struggling to meet those costs, with out-of-hour call outs now costing some farmers hundreds of euro.
He said “This is why this week in the Dáil I will be asking the Minister to outline what measures he will now take to urgently address this alarming situation being experienced by many rural farmers, and to give details of what supports the Department will make available to ensure that rural farms have access to proper veterinary services going forward.”