Vet service charging farmers €500 call-out fee

Call-out fees of up to €500 are being charged to some farmers by large animal veterinary services around the country, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

IFA national animal health chairman Pat Farrell said the inaction by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed in addressing the issues around the large animal veterinary service in the country has led to farmers being exposed in such a manner.

Farrell said the recent change of ownership of one of the veterinary practices in Donegal has seen that company now quoting €500 for an out-of-hours call out.

The animal hospital in question has an out-of-hours voicemail which states: “You will get a number to ring at the end of this message which will place you in a queue of emergency calls to the on-call vet.

“The fee to have an emergency treatment after 6:00pm and before 9:00am reflects the additional expense incurred in hiring an on-call locum vet who is in very short supply.

This fee is a minimum €200 for an animal seen at the animal hospital and €500 for an animal on farm, and can be paid in cash or by credit card or by debit card.

“Our normal fees apply from 9:00am until 6:00pm on a seven-day week.”

IFA has urged the minister to expedite the urgent review of large animal veterinary services in the country.

Farrell said since 2017 the organisation has highlighted the threat to competitive large animal veterinary services for farmers throughout the country and the need for a review of all components of the service.

He said: “The minister must ensure the structure and supports are in place to provide all farmers with a competitive large animal veterinary service at reasonable charges.”

The chairman added the provision of a competitive large animal veterinary service is a complex issue, with multiple factors impacting on the diminishing service to farmers.

This issue can only be addressed by reviewing all components that contribute to the service. These include the pathways to qualification for vets, the obligations set by the Veterinary Council (VCI), the unique nature of the service required by farmers, the demographics of the farm, animal population and the extremely low income of farmers dependent on this service.

Farrell said the Minister for Agriculture and the VCI have a huge role to play in this area and they are jointly failing farmers by their inaction.

He said it is unacceptable for the minister to stand idly by and allow the situation evolve to where farmers are exposed to the unjustifiable charges being quoted by one veterinary practice in Donegal.