Alan Sweeney has been working as a vet in the UK for the past year and a half and loves every minute of his job.
He hails from near Geevagh Co. Sligo, where he grew up on a 35-40 acre suckler farm, which Alan admits is more of a hobby for his father. He became a vet after completing his veterinary degree in University College of Dublin in 2016 and from there has gone on to work in two practices.
“I always knew I liked animals and working with animals and I also like science”, he said.
How it began/The big move:
He went, as part of LCVP in school, for work experience with a local vet, Barry Lynch in Boyle Co. Roscommon. From there he gained part-time employment helping out on calls and helping out on Barry’s farm. It was then that he knew, he was destined to be a vet.
After working for 9 years in total with Barry Lynch with his veterinary practice in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, Alan decided to take the step and move to the UK. He found himself on a way to a new job in Cornwall in England and he hasn’t looked back since.
Tamar Vets is the name of the practice where Alan now works and has done for over a year and a half. It is located near Cornwall. Cover North Cornwall South Devon region, just on the border.
It is a seven vets practice, which covers every animal, but mainly cattle, sheep, and pets. They do though work a lot with dairy farmers, who have large herds. This involves weekly visits out to their “routine farms”, where tasks could range from anything like vaccination to castrations or general animal care.
“It’s rare to get a quiet day”, he admits.
Alan also works on call when needed, which means he could work up to or over 60 hours a week on occasion. He says the hours are long, but he doesn’t find it a massively tough job, such is his love for his profession.
Alan says the Cornish are much like the Irish, which has made his movie across waters a smoother transition. He said the work-life balance seems to be much better than in Ireland, but still puts in long hours.
He loves life in England at the moment and likes to work hard as well as play hard, admitting he enjoys a few ‘lemonades’ from time to time. He says the day to day life is so different and says you could encounter anything during a day’s work, pointing to a very recent example.
“One of the receptionists has a wildlife sanctuary and she brought in two hedgehogs. One needed a stitch up and one needed it’s leg amputated”, he said.
“That was a bit random”, he laughed.
He said you could literally encounter anything whilst working in the practice and as recently as the other day had to remove a pair of leopard print underwear from the throat of a dog, much to the owner's embarrassment.
“I brought the dog out to her and told her it was fine. I then handed her a plastic bag containing the underwear and said these must be yours. She went beet red and ran out of the building”, he joked.
In the short term, he plans to stay where he is, though says he could not rule out opening his own practice in future. Alternatively, he says he could open a herd health management clinic/consultants agency to offer advice to farmers on their herd health and preventative methods.
“At the moment it would be staying here and getting more experience in a mixed practice and then maybe move back to Ireland”, Alan says.
He does though enjoy herd health, but also says he does enjoy the surgical side of the job also.
“Cesarean sections and herd surgeries, I do enjoy them….But as a whole It would probably be herd health and preventative medicine because that’s the way farming is going to go”, he said.
“It is eventually going to be a serious thing, where they eventually to restrict the use of antibiotics for farmers and vets", he said.
He said things will move towards showing farmers how to prevent illness, rather than just providing a cure/medicine. One of his preferred sections would be health and preventative medicine. Alan admits this is the way things are headed and says his future career might well involve something to do with animal/herd health.
He did admit that the job is not all plain sailing, with on-call being a particularly tedious task. He says even when you don’t get a call, you are still awake and tuned in.
“Sometimes when you are on-call all night, you can end up working 24 hours straight...They are the days you remember, but it’s not too bad”, he chuckled.
“Here we get a half day after being on call, it’s not so much like that in Ireland”, he said.
He did also add that the college education is a lot harder than one might imagine.
“There are very little animals, it’s all books, science, and education”, he said.
He strongly advised that anyone considering a career as a vet, should not do so on the sole basis of a love for animals.
“If you want to be a vet you need to have an interest in science and medicine as opposed to just liking animals. It is not enough to like animals. If you like animals join the RSPCA, if you like farming then become a farmer”, he said.
“The medicine and science are so important as Vets are ultimately the doctor for animals”, he stated.
In a year and a half, Alan has already gained so much experience. It is clear from the get-go how much he enjoys what he does. Who wouldn’t want a vet so caring to look after their herd?