Vet seeks greener pastures

Clayton Smith, who has been working as a vet in Narrandera for the last five years, is moving on to a practice in Wagga.

The Narrandera community will be sorry to see the back of local vet Clayton Smith. Mr Smith is heading to Moorong Street Veterinary Clinic in Wagga, having spent nearly five years working as a vet in Narrandera.

“I came here straight out of uni. I’ll probably miss some of the large animal work out here, and be moving into smaller animals.

“My partner works in Wagga as well, so eventually, hopefully, we’ll be living in the same place. We’ve been living out at Ganmain and I go to Narrandera and she goes to Wagga, so we’re getting a bit sick of that. It helps living closer to your work for after hours too.”

A graduate of CSU’s veterinary degree, Mr Smith came to Wagga from Singleton, where
his father worked in the mines.

“I thought vets made a lot of money, and I thought it would be a good job. It’s a good job,” Mr Smith said. “I like working with animals, I’m not the best with people. I think everyone gets in vet science saying that, and then the first question they’re asked is ‘who owns the animals?’ They don’t come to the clinic by themselves.

“I think you have to get good at talking to people. I still don’t think I’m great at it, but I like to think I’m getting better than when I started consulting. I like solving other people’s problems, although it gets a bit hard when someone brings a problem that can’t be fixed.”

Vet practices tend to be split between working with small animals (cats, dogs and the occasional goldfish) and large animals (livestock).

CSU’s veterinary course is a stand out in Australia, as it focuses so much on large animals, to the point that Sydney University brings its students to Wagga to learn large animal practices. Surprisingly, Mr Smith sees less large animal work in this part of the world.

“Most of the farmers out here are into cropping, livestock is kind of a side business rather than their main one. I think also the DPI is playing a lot more of a part out here too, so if a farmer’s had a lot of sheep die they won’t call us, they’ll call the DPI. Which is good, at least its government funded.

“We’d probably be about 80 per cent smaller animals and 20 per cent large ones. I like doing the large animals, it’s nice to be outside rather than being cooped up indoors all day. I like a bit of both, and that’s why a mixed practice is a good way to go, you get the best of both worlds. I don’t think I’ll ever be a specialist in either.”

The industry has changed significantly in the past few years, not least because of the success of CSU’s veterinary degree.

“They’ve flooded the market in capital cities, so the workplace for vets is changing a lot. I think a lot of younger vets are doing a couple of years and then locuming. So they get to choose their own rates, they get to choose their own hours. Because working as a new grad it can be pretty pitiful.”

Still, rural and regional Australia is suffering from the same issues of finding working professionals willing to live in rural areas.

“The market is changing out there, while here you’d struggle to find a vet. I think that’s pretty typical of the area, it’s a common complaint that you can’t attract people to rural areas in general. I mean, that’s a complaint I’ve heard in Bathurst, and that’s barely an hour and a half from Sydney. Lifestyle is a lot different out here.”

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