Growing up on a suckler and dairy farm sowed the seed for Richard Ryan, a native of Ballycallan, Co. Kilkenny.
“It was always fun helping out doing whatever had to be done…except picking stones; we use to say that was ‘character-building’”. Richard Ryan told Catherina of That’s Farming.
Richard set his eyes on the Veterinary Medicine sector from his early years and pursued his interest to gain a place on Ireland’s only Veterinary Medicine degree programme. With a keen interest to embrace the opportunities overseas for veterinary practitioners, soon after his graduation in 2012, Mr. Ryan travelled the hop and jump of the Atlantic Ocean to Canadian soil.
“In 2016 I moved back to Ireland from Canada with a spell locuming in the UK. I interviewed and accepted a position at Thomastown Veterinary Clinic.” Richard explained.
Thomastown Veterinary Clinic
Mr. Ryan is one of the resident vets of the practice, which is owned by Richard Brennan and his daughter Helen Austin-Brennan. The mixed practice with a well-equipped, purpose-built small animal clinic is approximately 50:50 large and small animals.
“Our days could involve anything from paring lame cows feet to scanning a bitch for pups, to neutering a cat, to treating a horse for colic and everything in between. The variety is what keeps it interesting.” William said when explaining the nature of his work.
“Veterinary is definitely different to what I initially expected. I thought there would be more hands-on work like dehorning, castrating and calvings.” Richard explained.
Richard is particularly passionate about fertility and surgery, especially displaced abomasum operations on the large animal side front and expresses a particular interest in dentistry and medicine when it comes to dealing with small animals.
“The variety is definitely enjoyable. It’s fantastic to be able to go from large animals to smalls especially in Spring. I would struggle with boredom if I was stuck indoors all day doing the same thing over and over.” Richard said.
Thomastown Veterinary Clinic is on a one-in-four rota, with each resident vet required to spend every fourth night on call, with two vets on-call during the spring.
“You can’t deny being on-call every second night and every second weekend for Spring, affects your social life and ability to make plans but we knew that going into it and rotas will get bigger as practices continue to grow into the future,” Richard said.
“I’d much rather treat a cow with a prolapsed uterus at 2 am when it happens than at 9 am when it’s been out for 7 hours and the cow not survive. Nobody minds getting out of bed for the true emergencies.” He added.
With thousands of small and large animals crossing his path over the past six years, Richard has attended his fair share of cases down through the years, with two unusual occurrences that quickly spring to mind. In Canada, Richard was treating a sick horse with some unusual clinical signs and after sending out some blood samples to the lab, the nature of the disorder was pinpointed.
“It turned out to be the first ever documented case of Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (A tick-borne disease) in the province of Ontario. The horse was on the brink of being put to sleep before we got the answer but made a great recovery.” Richard said.
Closer to home in 2017, Richard operated on a dairy-cow which had a volvulus (twist) of her small intestine causing complete obstruction.
“Finding out she was passing dung the next day and on the road to recovery was a great feeling,” Richard explained.
Richard draws attention to a calving injury he sustained a number of days prior to the Christmas season several years ago, as a major challenge that proved to be a valuable learning experience.
“I had my arm in her up to the shoulder and she jumped sideways twisting my back. It wasn’t until hours later I started to get sore.” Richard explained.
Work remained a “real challenge” for 6-7 months until Richard could get some-way back on track and spent anything up to four hours in the evening after work, doing physio, acupuncture, yoga exercises and icing and placing faith in anti-inflammatories, back supports and hot water bottles.
“I learned a valuable lesson that day never to handle cattle that can still jump side to side. Prevention is better than cure.” Richard said.
“You’d be surprised how even small animal work could exacerbate it from bending over the consult table, lifting anaesthetised dogs etc. It came right around August I’d say after a tough time and I’m lucky not to have had a recurrence.” Richard said.
As a veterinary practitioner with close to six years’ experience, Richard is keen to advise those who have a desire to pursue their passion in this field.
“Don’t go into it blindly thinking you want to work in one area only. I went into UCD thinking I wanted to be predominantly a hands-on cattle vet but ended up getting the most enjoyment out of the problem-solving science of medicine and surgery in mixed practice.” Richard said.
Richard stressed the importance of having the ability to communicate with people to achieve the right outcome for the animal in large or small animal practice.
“People often think it would be great to be a vet to work with animals and not people. Don’t forget every animal has an owner and the dog or cat is a part of the family in Ireland now.” Richard explained.
Satisfied with his current mixed practice, Richard is keen to highlight that he enjoys the variety and the challenges presented.
“Going forwards vets need to adapt to a changing environment. The old style practice based around factory work, testing, dripping calves and calving cows will gradually fade away.” Richard stressed.
With a firm belief that vets need to adapt and keep improving their skill-set, Richard has a positive outlook and that is “not be afraid to embrace a new style of practice.”
“Practices will have to start thinking outside the box; herd health planning for farms will be huge,” Richard said.
Keen to up-skill also, Richard has considered undertaking a potential graduate certificate over the next number of years, although he has yet to identify a specific area of interest.
“The role of the vet is rapidly changing to herd health and prevention rather than cure; an exciting time for vets,” Richard concluded.
If you are a Veterinary Practitioner and you want to share your story, get in touch. Email Catherinacunnane@gmail.com and your story may just be featured on That’s Farming next week!