continHailing from a strong Agricultural background, Athboy, Co. Meath native Donagh Mc Donnell always had his eyes fixed securely on Veterinary Medicine.
Donagh began to pave paths when he was only in his mid-teens and worked tirelessly to secure his place on Ireland’s only Veterinary Medicine degree programme in University College Dublin.
"I've have considered Veterinary from the time I was 14/15 years old," Donagh explained.
A natural progression
He graduated from the course with his degree and emerged immediately into the working world, with a vision to explore all aspects of Veterinary on an array of scales. Donagh secured his first position as a veterinary practitioner with Barry Lynch in Boyle, Co. Roscommon where he spent the first two years of career and from there, he travelled the hop and jump of the Irish sea to New Zealand and Australia. Donagh returned to set his foot on Irish soil, he ventured to Kilkenny to work in a practice for a short period of time.
“I then came to Longford to work for Kevin Geoghegan where I spent a further two years. I bought the practice from him and then bought a number of other practices and amalgamated them all together.” Donagh told Catherina of That's Farming.
A partnership was formed in 1998 and Donagh opened the doors of Longford Animal Health Centre, a mixed practice which covers 40% small animals, 40% farm animals and 20% equine. To this day, Donagh continues to run this practice, covering a large geographical area.
“I enjoy the workload, the outdoors and dealing with both the public and the animals. Veterinary is similar to what I initially expected but it is changing all the time.” Donagh said.
“The biggest downfall would be the weekend and night work and the unsociable hours,” Donagh explained.
Donagh is most passionate about equine medicine, which accounts for the majority of his work within the practice.
“I do most of the equine work in the practice, so I enjoy that aspect a lot. Surgery is very interesting. We are a progressive practice; one of the vets specialises in mostly small animals, another specialises in animal husbandry and herd health planning. I would specialise more in the equine side of things.” Donagh added.
“I have treated anything from camels in Australia to small Falabella ponies by performing caesarean sections on those. I have dealt with pretty unusual cases and every day is different.” Donagh said.
As a Veterinary practitioner for over two decades who now runs a practice and has also travelled the globe to experience veterinary on a grander scale, Donagh can look back on his career journey with pride. There are a number of milestones that have popped up along the way that he is quick to draw attention to.
“Purchasing the practice and amalgamating it was a number of other practices is my major highpoint. The practice is changing and progressing all the time. That is always challenging, yet interesting.” Donagh explained.
“I help out with VIVA also and I went to Uganda with them last year and I found it was very interesting,” Donagh added.
Donagh proves himself as the ideal candidate to give advice to young aspiring vets and he has quite a few words of wisdom to share.
“If you are keen to pursue a career in Veterinary and if you want it bad enough, you will work towards it and nothing will stop you. It is important to spend time in a local veterinary practice to find out what the work entails.” Donagh responded.
“People come into the profession with rose-tinted spectacles and in some cases, drop out of veterinary very quickly. You need to spend time thinking about it before you put it down on the CAO form. Veterinary is not for everyone.” He added.
The Bright Future
Satisfied in his current role, Donagh will continue to offer a quality service to his dedicated clientele, with exciting opportunities stirring in the pipeline.
The current rota system is an area that he feels needs improvement and something that he will approach by drawing up a new structured strategy over the next while. Looking well into the future, Donagh will strive for the gradual organic expansion of his practice with progressive plans for this end of the business.
“I may buy another practice and try and make it bigger to employ more vets,” Donagh added.
“There are lots of interesting things happening with these corporations coming in and purchasing practices. That will have to be looked at.” He added.
Overcoming challenges to progress forward
When highlighting his plans for the road that lies ahead, Donagh noted a number of challenges that are facing the Veterinary sector as a whole.
“There are nearly one hundred jobs advertised in the Veterinary Journal at present, it is very difficult for practices to get young vets to work for them. The reasons for that are very varied; there is a huge drop-out rate for example. People qualify and work for a number of years, become disillusioned and don’t enjoy it.” Donagh added.
“Sometimes I wonder if we are qualifying enough of the right type of people, particularly farm vets. I personally feel that there a huge area that is untapped for veterinary.” He added.
“I think if some of the Agricultural graduates were given the opportunity to do Veterinary, it would solve a huge amount of our problems. It is a major avenue that should be opened up more, with more places in college for people like that.” Donagh concluded.
If you are a Vet and you want to share your story, get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may just be featured on That’s Farming next week.