A study conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine highlights the issues of herd-to-vet proximity (how far away the nearest vet is to a herd) across the country.
According to the study, 95% of 106,095 bovine and sheep herds included in the analysis are located within 20km of their closest large animal or mixed private veterinary practitioner (PVP).
62% are located within 10km of their closest PVP, while 40% are located between 5km and 10km. 22% of herds are located within 5km of their closest PVP.
In only four counties are more than 10% of herds located further than 20km from their nearest PVP.
These are: Donegal (21% of herds further than 20km from nearest PVP); Kerry (13%); Louth (31%) and Mayo (11%).
However, Mayo has the highest number outright of herds located further than 40km from their nearest PVP, with 482 – nearly five times as much as the county with second-highest number of herds further than 40km from the nearest PVP, which is Louth with 100.
Only four other counties have herds further than 40km away from a PVP (Kerry with 75, Cork with two, Donegal with two and Galway with four).
Furthermore, Mayo has the highest number of herds further than 60km from the nearest PVP, with 27. No other counties (apart from Louth, with one) fall into this distance bracket.
All distances referred to in the study are determined by road travel, rather than ‘as the crow flies’.
Furthermore, figures pertaining to Louth may be influenced by the involvement of vets from Northern Ireland.
As well as conducting analysis of the distances, the department also conducted a survey of PVPs to determine age and gender trends in private veterinary practice.
For large and mixed animal practitioners who answered both the age and gender questions (674 PVPs), the survey results show that the 30-39 age bracket accounts for 190 PVPs, more than any other age bracket. There are nearly twice as much vets in that bracket than in the 60+ bracket.
On gender, 462 respondents were male and 212 were female. In the 20-29 age bracket, the majority (55%) of practitioners were female, while just 16% of vets aged over 40 are female.
By combining the two sets of data, the department explored the distance between herds whose nearest large or mixed animal PVP is staffed only by vets over the age of 60 and their next nearest large or mixed animal PVP.
The aim of this analysis was to explore the distance between a herd and its second-closest PVP if the first-closest is staffed by vets who may be approaching retirement age.
Galway has by far the most herds whose closest large or mixed animal PVP is staffed solely by vets over the age of 60. This was followed by Cork, with roughly 750, and Kerry, with around 600.
Waterford has the greatest median road distance between herds and their next nearest large or mixed PVP.