Just ten minutes outside Omagh in Co. Tyrone, there is a practice called Fairgreen Veterinary Centre where John Fitzpatrick and John Johnson work tirelessly for the health of the community’s animals.
Thirty-year-old John Fitzpatrick became a joint owner of the company just last year after joining the practice nearly eight years ago.
The centre deals will all types of animals, large or small, with the main customer base being farmers from the local area.
The young vet studied spent five years training in University College Dublin before qualifying in 2012.
Having grown up on the family farm of thirty suckler cows, John enjoyed working with the animals, but it was the fact that his uncle was also a vet that made him gravitate in that direction.
“My uncle actually tried to put me off going into veterinary medicine because he had a mad life,” laughed John, completely aware that the long hours and busy lifestyle can take its toll.
He explained, “It’s one of those things where I’ve never really thought of doing anything else. I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I can remember” even stating that if he hadn’t passed the Leaving Cert then he would repeat the exams until he got his place in the career.
John prefers working with large animals such as bovine fertility work and herd health although he admits that it too holds certain challenges, stating that this spring was one of the worst he has experienced.
The staff at the Fairgreen Veterinary centre were working extra nights and weekend shifts due to a shortage of staff.
John explained that due to the number of large calves and lambs born this year, a lot of assistance was needed.
There are currently three staff working at the practice, but they are on the lookout for a fourth in the growing business. “To come across large animal vets is becoming impossible. I don’t know where they go but it’s becoming more and more of an issue trying to get people to start that job”.
Even though the work is tough, the Tyrone-based vet loves his job and points out that there are many great aspects to the work as well.
He enjoys watching new animals being born and working with less-conventional animals too.
The clinic does a lot of work with alpacas. “They’re interesting animals to work with,” enthuses John, “To ‘give birth’ is to unpack an Alpaca and this is called a ‘creation’ because the young are called Cria”.
There is also a lot of work with ducks for John recently, as he also acts as an inspector for poultry before they cross the border to be slaughtered.
As a result, he sees about twenty-thousand ducks a week.
John’s home farm is about an hour away from where he lives, but he tries to give assistance to his parents whenever he can. “They’re all big, strong Blue-cross-Limousin calves; we probably would have more if I were closer to home,” he said.
It’s the unpredictability that also entices the business owner to the world of veterinary medicine, given that there could be pages written about nightmare situations that every vet will inevitably get into.
John's advice to recently qualified vets is to find a professional that is willing to take you in, “It’s a very lonely time that first year or two, it can be nerve-wracking initially, so you need good support”.
He does assure newcomers that, things may not get easier, but they certainly do become less stressful.
John is positive about the future of the Fairgreen Veterinary Centre, with the aim of expanding all areas of the business.
They are already looking for new staff and would like to expand the practice to include more clients and animals.
Although for six months of the year, life is really hectic for John, for the other six months, it’s slightly less so.
It appears that John welcomes the busy lifestyle as he married his wife Laura last year, became a partner in the practice and the couple will be welcoming their new baby into the world in July. “It’s been a mad year,” says John with a wide grin, we know he wouldn’t change it for anything.
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