A sharp drop in the number of farm veterinary practices is on the cards, which could leave the industry exposed to the threat of disease.

Speaking at a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons symposium on the future of the sector, Leicestershire-based vet Peter Orpin predicted that, by 2020 there could be as few as 200 practices left, with just 500 vets providing cover to the whole of UK agriculture.

“The current farm vet model is a high-cost one, with practices too small to allow specialisation or the ability to develop new vets.”

Meanwhile, Farmers Weekly livestock editor Jonathan Long warned vets that they would have to adapt to survive.

“Helping farmers avoid the need for the unplanned, often uneconomic emergency call-outs will be a paramount requirement for any practice.”

The future of farm animal practice lay not in emergency work, but in preventative work.