From farm to industry: the opportunities available to vets

Navaratnam Partheeban, vet in industry

When I thought about being a farm vet, the only thing I imagined was my hand up the back end of a cow. Is that all farm vets do?

I grew up in an urban setting, living in many different parts of the UK. My passion for cattle came from helping on cattle farms before I went to university and then spending time with farm vets on placements once I was in university. Compared to working with small animals and horses, I felt most comfortable and interested when standing on a farm. I enjoyed the challenge of moving and restraining animals before examining them. It was also satisfying to feel that sometimes my advice would not just be for one animal but the whole flock or herd.

When in vet school, I did doubt if I could ever be a cattle vet due to my lack of farming background and my ethnicity. This did mean I had to jump over many barriers, but my determination got me through. 

Working as a clinical farm vet made me happy, but there was something missing for me, too. Being in practice was great, but I wanted to know more. There are so many other roles for farm vets, including in academia, research, industry, marketing, sales and government, for example. My interests in the wider farm veterinary sector grew, and I made a move away from clinical practice and into a veterinary medicines company first. Then I taught at an agricultural university before moving again to my current role in the dairy cow nutrition sector. I now work as a dairy specialist for an American animal health company covering the south of the UK and Ireland.

There are many different companies and industries that need farm vets – these include medicines, nutrition, technology, genetics and data companies, among others. They also offer many different roles, which means each industry vet may do slightly different things day-to-day compared to another. Some vets are technical advisers, some conduct research, others perform marketing, or support sales, or are managers in companies. As a vet, you can join a company in one role but evolve to another if that is where your interest lies.  

In my job, I get to visit many dairy farmers across the UK and Ireland, providing advice to keep their animals healthy and produce more milk. I must work with their vets, nutritionists and milk contractor to help support their farms. This interaction is important and so being able to build good relationships is a key skill. This is a large part of the job, but my role also involves marketing and sales, which keeps my job interesting. 

As an industry vet, I have other tasks as well; for example, looking for business opportunities and understanding financial and product markets. This means I attend many conferences and meetings and keep up-to date with the media. 

One aspect that needs to be considered is the amount of travel involved in some industry roles. I am away from home two nights a week, which can be tiring but is part of my job. However, the amount of travel will vary depending on role and location. Working for a foreign company also means that I have the chance to travel abroad for work. Recently I have traveled to the USA, Israel, Belgium, Holland and Italy to meet farmers and company employees.

I really enjoy my job and feel that I have been lucky to have worked in so many different roles. Being an industry vet has allowed me to develop many new skills and meet so many new people. It also has given me options to move into areas that I wouldn’t have previously thought about. 

If you qualify as a vet, remember there are so many options in terms of both the species that you can work with or areas that you can work in. Most vets go into practice at the beginning, which I feel is important, but then find where their passion is and move towards that, which could be in practice or outside. Veterinary medicine is a great passport and the possibilities are endless.

If you are interested in finding out more, then try to get some work experience with vets in different roles to see what excites them about their job and this may help inspire you for a future role.

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