How farm vets cope

A new website to help vets cope with the daily challenges of farm animal practice has been launched by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Researchers at SRUC received a £20,000 grant from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Mind Matters Initiative to identify ways of promoting job satisfaction and break the cycle of negative thoughts and poor mental wellbeing identified in farm vets.

The website, How Farm Vets Cope, was inspired by accounts of vets’ experiences, as well as published research about stress and mental health in the veterinary profession, and the challenges of farm animal practice.

The website includes written and audio quotes from vets listed under different categories including: advising farmers; dealing with difficulties and conflicts; and managing time and expectations.

It also provides a range of options for coping with stress – including listening to podcasts and music, with playlists inspired by suggestions from farm vets.

Data provided by the project indicate that vets often feel lonely or isolated, especially when on call at night.

A future project could see the inclusion of a map on the website, showing the number of vets on duty or on call in various parts of the UK, with a mock-up map  included in the current website. An additional feature would allow app users to connect with each other.

The website also provides information about the support available for vets, including mental health and wellbeing support services.

Project lead Dr Kate Stephen, a Behavioural Scientist at SRUC’s Epidemiology Research Unit, said: “We are indebted to the farm vets who contributed to this project.  We would like to thank every farm vet who was interviewed, those who took part in the workshop and who provided feedback at the alpha testing stage.  

“It has been an immense privilege for our team to have been given such an insight into the very personal, sometimes painful, experiences which were described during interviews.  

“It has also been interesting to hear about the most satisfying aspects of their work and inspiring to hear how farm vets cope with the challenges they face.”  

The project was made possible by the development of the inaugural Sarah Brown Mental Health Research Grant, named after an elected RCVS Council member who died in 2017. 

The team at SRUC has been invited to present its research findings at the biennial Mind Matters Initiative Research Symposium in 2021.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.