Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Clients. Outdoors. Animals.’: retaining vets in UK farm animal practice—thematic analysis of free-text survey responses
  1. Katherine E Adam1,
  2. Sarah Baillie2 and
  3. Jonathan Rushton3
  1. 1Innogen Institute, Science Technology and Innovation Studies, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; k.adam{at}


Retaining vets in farm practice has been identified as a key strategy to maintain an adequately trained and experienced workforce to provide animal health services for livestock enterprises and government. This qualitative study aimed to explore vets’ experiences of UK farm animal practice and their perceptions of the factors that influenced their career choices. Thematic analysis of free-text survey responses from 187 vets working in farm practice and 141 who had given up farm work identified four main themes: affect (experiences of feeling or emotions), personal life, the job and the bigger picture. Those who stayed in farm practice described satisfaction with their career and enjoyment of physical, outdoor work in rural communities. Choosing to give up farm work was influenced by both personal and professional circumstances and related frequently to management issues in practice. Veterinary businesses also face challenges from the broader agricultural and veterinary sectors that affect their ability to support and retain vets. The findings presented build on previous quantitative analysis of factors associated with retention and demonstrate the complexity of individual vets’ career choices.

  • veterinary profession
  • farm animals
  • practice management
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Funding The study was funded by Norbrook Pharmaceuticals as part of the first author’s PhD research at the Royal Veterinary College.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The details were approved by the ethics review committee of the Royal Veterinary College.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.