Story: Veterinary services

Page 2. Post-war developments

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Veterinary Services Council

In 1946 the government set up the Veterinary Services Council (VSC) to promote a nationwide veterinary service for livestock owners. It took over the roles of the Dominion Federation of Farmer Veterinary Services and the Veterinary Services Committee.

The VSC encouraged veterinarians to set up practices (known as clubs) throughout the country. It offered grants for clinics and houses for accommodation, loaned equipment, and initially even subsidised vets’ salaries. Alan Leslie, the VSC’s first executive officer, was a driving force in the rapid expansion of veterinary clubs in the following decade.

Not quite the same

In the 1950s, Feilding vet Geoff Sommerville was called by the local vicar to help his wife. She was about to give birth, and the local doctor was clearly not going to get there in time. Sommerville obliged, and all went well. But it was a revelation for the vet, who had never realised that human babies were born head-first – unlike cows and sheep, whose forelegs came first. Overall he preferred cows, which were easier to assist!

Employment contract

In 1951, after three years of negotiation, the VSC produced a standard contract for veterinarians employed by veterinary clubs. In the 2000s, with some modifications and updates, this contract was still used for rural veterinary employment and defining associated salary scales.

Expansion of veterinary clubs

By 1955, nearly all livestock farmers had access to a veterinary service, mainly supplied by clubs. Recruitment of overseas veterinarians continued, from Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark.

No school

A veterinary school was almost established at the University of Otago in 1904. The proposal was approved by the government and a four-year course prepared for a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree. However no-one enrolled, and the plan lapsed.


The VSC provided bursaries for New Zealanders to study at university veterinary schools in Sydney and Brisbane – a four-year course, after a year’s medical intermediate at a New Zealand university. All VSC bursary holders were bonded to work in veterinary clubs or government service for the first five years after graduation.

In 1962 the Faculty of Veterinary Science was set up at Massey University in Palmerston North – so New Zealanders no longer needed to train in Australia.

Types of vet clubs

Veterinary clubs were set up by grants from the VSC, debentures from farmers, and loans from banks and dairy factories. Committees of local farmers managed the clubs, with input by the senior veterinarian. There were three types:

  • dairy-factory clubs, which had compulsory membership of all farmers who supplied a particular factory
  • clubs set up in association with dairy factories but with voluntary membership
  • clubs in dairying or meat and wool farming areas, with voluntary membership and no dairy-factory involvement.

Private and contract practices

As farmers became more aware of the value of rural veterinary services and the advantage of working with a veterinarian, private and contract practices developed. In 1963, the VSC approved the formation of contract practices from existing veterinary clubs. Senior veterinarians managed the practices and leased assets from the club.

Later developments

In 1992 there were 830 veterinarians in clinical practice in New Zealand. Of these 72% were in private practice, 15% in clubs and 13% in contract practices.

In 1994 the Veterinary Council of New Zealand replaced both the Veterinary Services Council and the Veterinary Services Board, which had been responsible for registration and regulation of vets.

In 2008 clubs still flourished, but the proportion of private and contract practices was high. Some large veterinary groups were being set up to cover large geographical areas.

How to cite this page:

Hamish Mavor and Bob Gumbrell, 'Veterinary services - Post-war developments', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 June 2024)

Story by Hamish Mavor and Bob Gumbrell, published 24 Nov 2008