Key findings:

  • 54% of respondents plan to hire vets or nurses in the next 12 months but practices are experiencing difficulty finding staff;

  • Those surveyed pointed to recruitment (22%), Work/life balance (18%) and credit control (12%) as the biggest challenges facing practices in Ireland;

  • 23% of female respondents earn over €60k per annum compared to 80% of male respondents;

  • 74% of veterinary practice owners who participated in this year’s research do not know the current value of their business. This puts practice owners at a disadvantage when negotiating to sell their business. 4 in 10 practice owners are considering selling within the next three years;

  • 70% of practice owners have not identified a successor;

  • 68% of practice owners whose practices are not currently incorporated would consider incorporation. This reflects growing awareness of the benefits of scaling up, a trend that has been getting stronger in recent years;

  • Long hours continue to pose problems across the profession. While there has been a reduction in the number of vets working more than 60 hours a week when compared to last year, more than half of our survey respondents still work over 50 hours a week.

Three-quarters of Irish vets could be at a disadvantage when selling their practice because they do not know what their business is worth.

HLB Sheehan Quinn’s third annual Veterinary Practice Survey Report (for 2019-20) finds that the entry of corporates into the Irish market is creating opportunities for veterinary practice owners who want to sell their business. However, practice owners should be wary of pitfalls and consult advisors before negotiating with potential purchasers. This will help vets identify potential problems that could affect practice value and highlight areas where improvements could enhance value.

4 in 10 survey respondents are female, with women outnumbering men in the under-40 age group. The study found significant disparity regarding the earnings of female respondents versus male counterparts with just 23% of female respondents earning over €60k per annum compared to 80% of males. Although the numbers suggest a significant gender pay gap, factors such as drop off and fluctuating career ambitions as well as an evolving career cycle for vets are likely contributing factors.

While overall job satisfaction levels among survey participants show improvement when compared to last year—perhaps reflecting better work/life balance in practices that have scaled up over the last 12 months—job satisfaction levels among female respondents are lower than those of their male peers (38% of female respondents are satisfied vs 70% of male respondents).

Across the profession, long hours and rota issues continue to be a problem and are contributing to difficulties in recruitment. 54% of practices who participated in the study, plan to recruit vets or nurses in the next 12 months. However across all regions, practices report problems attracting and retaining staff, with sole practitioners often working long hours themselves as a result.

Commenting on the findings, HLB Sheehan Quinn Managing Partner Mark Butler said:

“Considering the number of vets who hope to sell their practice in the next three years, it is eye-opening that seven in ten practice owners who participated in our research don’t know what their practice is worth. Practice owners need to consider engaging with expert advisors with transactional experience in advance of retirement or exit so that they can negotiate effectively when entering into discussions with prospective purchasers.”

“Long hours and difficulties attracting and retaining staff are a challenge for practices across the country. While remuneration is important, practices need to be looking beyond pay to benefits such as flexible working, health screening and health insurance, learning opportunities, mentoring and career progression. Scaling up can be one way for practices to improve their ability to attract and retain staff.”

Like newly-qualified doctors, veterinary graduates are opting to go abroad for a year or two post-qualification. Once they have experienced better living and working conditions abroad, many are reluctant to return to the long hours in traditional veterinary practices in Ireland.

The impact that Brexit will have on the agriculture sector is another concern, particularly for large animal practices. Respondents are also worried about the future supply of medicines traditionally sourced from the UK.


For further information, please contact:

Seán O’Brien, Press Office, HLB Sheehan Quinn / +353 1 291 5265

Notes for editors:

About this report:Research for this report was conducted during September 2019. The full report is available below:

Click to download the full report

About HLB Sheehan Quinn: Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Dublin, HLB Sheehan Quinn is an independent professional accounting firm specialising in services for entrepreneurial and owner-managed businesses. The firm is a leading advisor to the veterinary sector.