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Community & Business

9 December, 2022

More vets needed if we get a local FMD spread

National authorities have been on high alert for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since an outbreak in Indonesia in May spread to Bali.

By Emily Middleton

While Australia has tough border and biosecurity laws and proceedures, earlier this year FMD was dedicated in imported meat products.

The disease would cause huge devastation to the Australian livestock industry, if it was to spread in the country. Like most industries in Australia, post-COVID worker shortage and veterinarian burn-out, applies to the veterinarian profession.

Gulargambone-based vet Dr Cathrine Borgen- Nielsen (of Cross Country Vets) said FMD and ongoing worker shortages are big concerns to rural vets.

“There’s just a massive shortage of vets at the moment, especially in rural communities,” she said.

Having relocated from Queensland only twomonths- ago to live on her partner’s farm in Gulargambone, Dr Cathrine is now helping service the region.

“There’s been an increase in pet ownership because of COVID — it’s gone up around 30 per cent — but the numbers of vets have gone down, due to no vets being able to come into the country.”

Dr Cathrine also noted that, unfortunately, most vets will leave the profession after only five years.

“They’re basically very understaffed and overworked. While it’s rewarding, it’s also a struggle.”

Working mainly with horses, dogs, and cats, Dr Cathrine also treats sheep and cattle. With the dreaded FMD now being on Australia’s doorstep in Bali, Dr Cathrine said, that if we don’t start increasing the number of vets available, battling an FMD outbreak could become a major problem.

“We don’t really have enough vets on the ground out in the country, which is where we are going to be seeing FMD [if it spreads locally].

“There’s simply not enough vets to even determine whether FMD is coming and spreading into the country!” she said.

“This is a major problem because, if it comes into Australia, that’s $80 billion of economic losses over the next 10-years. A huge financial concern.”

For anyone considering becoming a veterinarian, Dr Cathrine highly encourages it.

“It’s a very rewarding job and I love what I do every day. Every day is different, and that’s the best part, you help animals, and you help save their lives. Not every day is the best day, but that’s part of life. If you look at the bigger picture, it’s a very supportive industry to step into.”

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