Where we've come from

Samuel George Cockroft (b1864) was among the veterinarians sent from New Zealand to take care of the 5000 horses shipped to the South African War (1889-1902). On his return, "Cocky" set up a vet practice in Feilding.

In 1946, the government set up the Veterinary Services Council (VSC) to promote a nationwide veterinary service for livestock owners. The VSC encouraged farmers to set up practices (known as clubs) throughout the country and employ vets.  It offered grants for clinics and houses for accommodation, loaned equipment, and initially even subsidised vets' salaries. Veterinary clubs were also helped along by debentures from farmers, and loans from banks and dairy factories. Committees of local farmers managed the clubs, with input from the senior veterinarian.

It was during this era that the Feilding and Districts Vet Club, based in Kimbolton, and the Rongotea Vet Club were established.

Totally Vets' parentage consists of two of the three possible types of club:

  • 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

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 owned and managed the practices and leased assets from the club. The Feilding and Districts Vet Club contracted Manawatu Vet Services to provide veterinary services to its members in 1988.

The Feilding Vet Club was relocated to Feilding, employing a growing number of vets. In the 1950s, "Feilding vet Geoff Somerville 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. Geoff obliged, and all went well. But it was a revelation for Geoff, who had never realised that human babies were born head first - unlike cows and sheep, whose forelegs came first. Overall Geoff preferred cows, which were easier to assist!"

In 1962 the Faculty of Veterinary Science was set up at Massey University; New Zealanders no longer needed to train in Australia. The Rongotea Vet Club was wound up; a third of its clients going to each of Southern Rangitikei Vet Services (Bulls), Manawatu Vet Services and Massey Farm Services.  A "private practice" was established in Palmerston North by Jim Kelly, Sam Burgess and Gordon Cuming. KBC, as they became known, was the parent practice of Awapuni Vet Services.

In 2006, Manawatu and Awapuni Veterinary Services merged to form Totally Vets. The diversity of the veterinarian's role has expanded significantly since the days of our pioneering predecessors. It's this diversity and its continued growth that brought about the merger, which has now created a need for larger premises. But more on this in the next chapter of "Where we've....".

As people adopted pets into their homes in urban areas and these animals assumed the status of family members, the role of the urban vet grew hugely. Nowadays, an urban vet may have 20 clients per day and contact another 10 or more to report lab tests or discuss follow-ups - house calls are much rarer than they used to be.  Ninety percent of the animals they see each day are cats and dogs but may include guinea pigs, rabbits, caged birds, fish, reptiles, ferrets, rats and mice.

Rural vets do most of their work on the farm and may make just a few visits a day because of the long travel distances. They deal with large, commercially valuable animals such as sheep, cows or horses and may be called out at any hour of the day or night.

The veterinary world has changed. It is an intriguing reflection of our community. To be a part of the growth and development of our community and then become a prominent aspect of the landscape reflects on the amazing progress our community has made.

Reference: Hamish Mavor & Bob Gumbrell. ‘Veterinary sertvices - early vet services, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Mar-09