More than half of livestock vets working on farms get injured annually.
The finding comes from the British Veterinary Association (BVA), which urged farmers and vets to develop robust on-farm health and safety procedures.
Their survey indicated that 61% of vets working with production animals suffered injuries, in 12 months.
A similar number of vets working in equine practice (65%), and mixed practice (66%), were injured by animals in the course of their work.
One in five production animal vets responding to BVA’s autumn 2018 survey rated their injuries as very or quite severe.
By far the most common injury was bruising caused by kicks, with 81% of production animal vets who had been injured reporting this.
Other injuries reported included crush injuries, lacerations, scratches and bites.
Almost a fifth of vets surveyed (19%) had to take time off work as a result of their most severe injury.
Vets responding to the survey described some of the injuries they had received, and the impact on their health and careers.
“I was kicked by a cow during a caesarean, flew backwards into my kit, and sprained a wrist,” one vet said.
“Regrettably, I am giving up large animal work, because it is too dangerous,” another reported.
“I am the lead earner in my house, and we wish to start a family, and cattle work is simply too dangerous now, because of the risk of serious kick and crush injuries.”
BVA President Simon Doherty shared his own first-hand experience with on-farm injuries and their life-changing impact:
“I’ve been stood on, kicked, and had my arm broken, whilst working with cattle.
“I’ve had problems with my back, due to the physical aspects of repeated lambings and calvings, particularly at night-time, and when I ruptured a spinal ligament calving a heifer with a uterine torsion, the injury was serious enough that I could no longer continue working in large animal practice.”
Mr Doherty is now a veterinary consultant and senior lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast.
He emphasised the importance of all parties taking health and safety on farm seriously:
“These figures show the serious risk of injury that production animal vets run in the course of their work, even when handling facilities are relatively good.
“Health and safety assessments by farmers, vets and veterinary employers can reduce these injuries and save lives by informing action plans to minimise avoidable risk.
“Safe and well-maintained facilities and restraining equipment, such as cattle crushes, pens, gates and safe escape routes, are also key to reducing injuries to humans as well as animals.
“I’d encourage farmers and vets to start the conversation and take action to minimise avoidable risks.”