Farm vet Sally is revelling in her first role

Farm vet Sally is revelling in her first role

SALLY Kitchiner’s career as a farm vet is moo-ving in the right direction, thanks to the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme.

VetPartners has four graduate programmes – small animal, equine, farm, and mixed practice – developed to give newly qualified vets the best possible start to their career.

Our tailored programmes are designed to bridge the gap between being a student and a working professional, building on the skills and knowledge learnt at university whilst boosting their confidence in their first role.

Here, Sally, who works at Hampden Vets in Buckinghamshire, reflects on her experience of the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme….


Why did you decide to do the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme?

I did a four-week placement with my practice in my final year of vet school and loved every second of it. I then looked into the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme and really liked the sound of the structure and support it provided. I was eager to develop my skills and confidence after being a student and thought starting my first role at a practice alongside a structured programme would be an excellent way to do so.


What was the learning experience like?

It was really great and such a comprehensive range of topics were covered. There was a mix of face-to-face and online CPD sessions as well as a farm boot camp in the summer.

The farm boot camp was very enjoyable, it took place in September 2022 and was a five-day residential course. During it we covered a variety of topics such as emergency work, camelids, understanding data and digital amputation.

Sally holding palm out towards a lamb

Not long after the boot camp I attended a course of scanning which was focused primarily on scanning and fertility. This was a great course and was an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with experts. We went to three or four different farms and scanned dairy cows to learn how to look for calves, ovaries, ageing calves and how to scan the whole uterus. I really liked the relaxed learning environment, and it helped me pick up the skill quickly.

There were also several other in-person CPD courses on topics such as, infectious disease, parasites and young stock management. The CPD that took place online was also beneficial, and topics covered included beef, Ovine Johne’s Disease, and Digifarm training.


How much support did you receive on the VetPartners Graduate Programme?

I’ve had loads of support throughout the whole programme which I’m very thankful for.

The support was especially great from my assigned mentor, Caroline Cooper, who is a vet at my practice. She guided me through the highs and lows, listened when I wanted to talk through cases and was like my own personal cheerleader when it came to celebrating the wins. We met every one-two week to discuss any concerns and to chat, and she was also only ever a phone call away.

My practice team have also been incredibly supportive, giving me advice and helping me whenever I wasn’t sure on something.

I’ve also found chatting to the various vets and experts who run the courses to be beneficial. It’s great to hear their past experiences and their advice on how to deal with different cases. Ami Sawran, clinical director at Westpoint Farm Vets was also particularly helpful on one occasion when I was dealing with a tricky alpaca case, she contacted me super quickly and had some very helpful suggestions.


How are you finding life as a farm vet?

I’m really enjoying it! After leaving university I was initially feeling a bit overwhelmed about starting my first practice role, thinking I would find it hard to transition from that student mindset to that of a working professional. Sally checking the lamb

But I’ve really gotten stuck into my role over the past year, and I feel immersing myself in my work has helped me get better at my job.

In my role, I do a mix of routine and emergency work. The emergency work includes visiting sick animals as well as obstetrical visits, for example, caesareans and herd level investigations. The routine work is anything from TB testing to blood testing and castrations. We also took on two new graduates in September last year and I’ve been supporting them with their own routine and emergency visits which I feel quite proud to do considering I’m only about a year and a half into my first role as a vet.

My job can be really busy, and I admit it can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding knowing you’re helping care for an animal and doing something you’re passionate about.

I’m also grateful to now be at a stage where I feel comfortable and confident to do all these things independently but if I ever need help or guidance there’s always another vet at my practice who I can go to for help.


Was there an opportunity to meet other graduates?

The face-to-face CPD sessions throughout the programme were great for this and I found it useful chatting through cases with other graduates. I also found comparing how we’re finding our first practice roles comforting and it’s reassuring to know that you’re all in the same boat and that we’re bound to make mistakes. You get to know the other graduates as the sessions are always with the same set of people and it’s been nice building connections. I’m grateful to have made these friendships as it’s helpful to know that there’s someone in a similar situation to you to talk to.

The boot camp was also great for meeting other graduates as you are with the same group all week. We spent our free time in the evenings getting to know each other over dinner as well as eating our breakfast and lunch together every day as well.


Would you recommend the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme to others?

Absolutely! The courses really helped with my progression, and I’ve loved having that guaranteed learning time every week. It’s been a really beneficial experience for me and has helped me grow massively in both my skills and confidence. The programme ensures you have all the support you need and there’s always someone there to talk to or to go to just for a chat whilst you are navigating your first practice role. The way it is structured also strikes the ideal balance between being challenging enough so you grow, but never to the extent that you feel overwhelmed.

Sally smiling in green area


Sally graduated from the University of Surrey in June 2022 before taking on her first practice role as a farm vet at Hampden Farm Vets in Buckinghamshire alongside the graduate programme in September 2022. She is currently in her second and final year on the VetPartners Farm Graduate Programme.




Article written by Rachel Neill, VetPartners PR & Communications Executive. Email