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From farm animals to aquaculture and back

07 Mar 2024 | Matt Haslam


In this blog, farm animal vet Matt Haslam discusses his journey returning to first opinion practice after four years.

From farm animals to aquaculture and back Image

My departure from first opinion farm animal practice happened at the typical ‘five-year itch’ stage of a vet’s career. I remember growing tired of routine dairy practice, and once I could do a c-section and fix a displaced abomasum, I felt that I wanted a new challenge.

This challenge manifested in a complete change of sector. I eventually found myself working in the aquaculture industry, spending time working with salmon in Norway, shrimp in Thailand and even Alabama catfish! I learnt a lot from my time in the industry, mainly regarding business management and finance, but a personal desire to return home to my roots in Cheshire, combined with a great opportunity at VetPartners, led me back into practice.

After five years away from practice, I was apprehensive about how rusty my surgery skills were and was also nervous that my knowledge was outdated. Returning to a 1 in 3 night rota soon rectified any rustiness, and I found that manual skills such as scanning cows or doing surgery soon came back. I had a great support network within VetPartners and had many people I could pick up a phone to or drop a Whatsapp message if I felt like I needed a bit of guidance. My advice, don’t be too proud to ask a stupid question and seek a practice with a supportive atmosphere.

I benefitted from being that little bit older and wiser, too. My communication skills had improved following my time in the industry, which helped me navigate the challenging circumstances I now found myself in. I would encourage those of you considering returning to practice to focus on the other skills you have developed during your absence from the front line. Whether it is additional skills acquired from a different role or just the extra resilience and sense of perspective that comes with a few grey hairs, you may find your experiences are of more use than you think.

Expect to be tired! Returning to night work and trying to dredge up your veterinary knowledge takes its toll, but it soon resolves, and you’ll be back on autopilot in no time.

Four years on, I’m delighted with my decision to return to practice. I had missed the sense of camaraderie and the dynamism of first opinion practice, and being part of a community is invaluable, even if farmers do quiz you about calf diarrhoea while in the queue at the chippy.

Return to work toolkit 

To help tackle the ongoing recruitment and retention challenge within the veterinary profession, we've developed a new 'Return to work' toolkit to support our members returning to veterinary workplaces, and for employers and managers welcoming 'returners' to their teams. 

Access now 


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