Challenges Facing Rural Farm Animal Veterinary Enterprise in the UK

Katie Adam, Colette Henry, Jonathan Rushton, Sarah Baillie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)



Livestock production and associated services are central to the UK’s rural economy. Farm animal veterinary enterprises are important service providers in rural areas, but these enterprises are now facing concerns over their future economic viability [1]. The objective of this paper is to outline the main issues affecting these rural enterprises and identify areas for future empirical work.

Prior Work

Historically, both agriculture and animal health have been viewed as ‘public goods’. For example, livestock production is supported by EU subsidy payments, and farm animal veterinary practices derive part of their income from government-funded services such as disease surveillance [2]. However, forthcoming policy changes, such as Common Agricultural Policy reform and tendering for bovine tuberculosis testing, are expected to lead to reduced income from public sources for both vets and their livestock farming clients. In addition, with an evident trend toward fewer, larger, more specialised enterprises in both farming and veterinary practice, reduced livestock density and veterinary coverage is expected to cause difficulties in the provision of emergency services to remote areas [3]. In the future, veterinary enterprises will need to ensure that they can deal with such challenges and, where required, adapt their services accordingly.


This is a conceptual paper contextualised mainly within the UK. As such, the methodological approach comprises a critical review of current academic literatures, as well as government reports and relevant media articles.

Results and Implications

The findings from this exploratory paper suggest that while farmers are generally satisfied with the clinical services provided by rural veterinary enterprises, they have also expressed doubts as to vets’ ability to provide business-focussed services that add value. The commercial success of rural veterinary practices is critical to ensuring that services remain available to livestock farmers. New business models for service delivery will be necessary to increase efficiency and ensure the survival of rural veterinary enterprises. Assessing the future demand for rural farm animal veterinary services, and determining the drivers for such demand are amongst those areas identified for further research.


Given the dearth of research in this area, this paper enhances understanding of the challenges facing rural farm animal veterinary enterprises. The findings should be of practical value to both veterinary and farming enterprises; the findings will also inform veterinary educators responsible for training the next generation of rural veterinary enterprise leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication35th Annual Conference of Institute for Small business and entrepreneurship (ISBE)
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2012

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