Insights From A Retiring Farm Vet’s 37-Year Career

From removing a cyst in a sheep’s brain to a total of 8 years on night duty. Chris (Sid) Parker shares insights from his 37-year career as a farm vet.

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Chris (Sid) Parker, Partner and Farm Vet at Derbyshire based Scarsdale Vets, is retiring this month after working for nearly 40 years in the farm veterinary sector.

Chris is known across the five regions* Scarsdale Vets’ farm team works in for his boundless energy, enthusiasm and zest for life (not to mention his entertaining and endless supply of veterinary stories…) Chris has seen many changes in both the veterinary and farming professions throughout his career.

Highlights From A 37 Year Career

A few highlights from his 37-years as a Farm Vet include:

  • Removing a cyst from a sheep’s brain (and seeing it wake up and walk in a straight line – it had previously just been circling)
  • Amputating a guinea pig’s leg
  • Removing the entire uterus in a fully grown heifer
  • Rectal examinations on approximately one million cattle
  • Leaving church on his wedding day to find an honour guard of 30 farmers wearing arm length gloves and forming an arch with pitchforks lining the church path
  • Altogether, a grand total of 8 years on night duty

Qualifying from The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh in 1982, Chris joined Taylor Thompstone and Partners that year, which later became the Scarsdale Veterinary Group. In 1982 Taylor Thompstone and Partners comprised just six vets, supported by six staff. Nearly 40 years on, Scarsdale Vets now employs 100 vets, with over a further 200 support staff (in clinical and non-clinical roles) working across the group’s 11 practices.

Changes Over The Years

When Chris qualified in 1982, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and HRH Prince William and Catherine Middleton, future Duchess of Cambridge, were born. Since then, the changes Chris has seen include:

Changes Seen In The Veterinary Profession

Male vs. Female Ratio90% male vs 10% female vet students (Edinburgh Vet School)15% male vs. 85% female vet students (Nottingham Vet School)
Nature Of WorkRare to see more than 1 animal per visit, but 8-10 visits per vet per dayNow, see 50/60 animals per visit with 2 – 3 visits per vet per day
Painkillers/AntibioticsNo licensed painkillers available or used. Animal antibiotics still newly introducedRoutine painkillers now used, but vets are now more cautious about over use of antibiotic
Change In Career PatternsMost vets started and finished work in the same practice. Chris started as a Farm Assistant 37 years ago and finishes as a Partner and Chair of the BoardVets move jobs more regularly now, seeking career progression by moving from practice to practice. Now, 70% of larger practices are owned by corporate companies, unlike the independent Scarsdale Vets
GeneticsThere was just one question on animal genetics in exam papersNow there are highly qualified experts in this field, such as Rose Jackson – another Scarsdale partner and Farm Vet

Changes Seen In The Farming Profession

Changes In Farming PracticesSmall units with a few mixed breeds. A number of dairy farms milked less than 20 animals, with the average only 50 -60 cows.

Used to see a lot more staff per farm

Now, the units are larger often with a single dominant breed (Holstein) – Scarsdale’s largest farm milks 600 cows!

Now, there’s one/two staff per farm (size depending)

TechnologyRectal examinations were commonplace to ascertain whether a cow was pregnant or notNow, vets have mobile ultrasound scanners, allowing an inside view of the cow. From this, you can see if it’s twins, if the calf is alive or dead, and the cow’s internal organs are ok
Changes To LivestockUsed to see up to six different types of dairy cow, including short horns, Jersey and Guernsey breedsNow, one ‘uniform’ breed dominates – the black and white Holstein – so dairy farms look very different too
European VetsThere were a number of European students on work experience, but no non-UK vetsBrexit could have severe consequences for TB testers and abattoir staff, many of which are European nationals

More Than Just A Farm Vet

Chris became a Partner at Scarsdale Vets in 2000. Away from his role at Scarsdale Vets, he also was a Member of the Advisory Board for the VDS (Veterinary Defence Society) between 2010-2016 and was an external examiner for Liverpool Vet School’s Diploma in Bovine Reproduction course between 2012-2016. In 2005 Chris attended the first Open Day at Nottingham Vet School (who have now have an ongoing, 13 year relationship with Scarsdale Vets) and he has volunteered at 45 of the 52 open days since. He is also Chair of Scarsdale Vets’ Board.

On top of all this, Chris has also done lots charity walks/runs throughout his career, including: walking the entire width of the Yorkshire Moors in one day twice (42 miles each time); walking the South West Coast Path with his son to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (they have walked 520 miles so far and only have 160 to go!); and completing the Edinburgh marathon three times. Chris has run this solo once, and twice as a relay race, with the final time being very special as his two sons and wife made up the relay team.

On Chris’ retirement, Rose Jackson, Partner at Scarsdale Vets said: “Sid has been an inspiring person to work with and has been supportive of the ongoing development of the practice and the careers of those who work in it. On behalf of everyone at Scarsdale Vets we all wish Sid a very happy retirement.”

*Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Birmingham

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