Young vets only want to treat cats and dogs, forcing farmers to put down livestock themselves, industry professionals have warned.

Graduates are prioritising "profitable" household pets and shying away from more "dangerous" procedures such as bull castrations and cow caesareans.

Farmers say this attitude is adding to the existing problem of a national shortage of vets and have warned that things will only get worse unless immediate action is taken.

In Lincolnshire, there are just eight vets available for the tens of thousands of animals in the county. Parts of the region lack any emergency cover at all, according to the head of the British Veterinary Association.

Some farmers are being driven to taking matters into their own hands and putting animals "out of their misery" rather than seeing them suffer.

Molly Mckay, a veterinary surgeon at Norfolk Farms Ltd, which also offers services in Lincolnshire, said pet owners have the luxury of spending a "large amount" of money on extending an animal’s life, adding: "Most farmers will do everything they can for their animals.

"But sometimes they will make the decision that to put an animal out of its misery is the best thing to do for it at that point in time, because its long-term future is not very good.

"Pet owners are much more likely to spend a large amount of money on extending an animal’s life, even if it’s only for a short period of time, because they’re emotionally involved and attached to them in a different way."

Recruiting vets from overseas

In a bid to tackle the shortfall of vets, Downing Street has added the profession to the Home Office’s list of job shortages so it will become easier to recruit people from overseas.

But such steps are unlikely to tackle the issue of graduates opting for "comfy" surgeries where they can make "£200  in half an hour treating a budgie."

Adam Duguid, who owns Lincolnshire’s biggest dairy farm, which has a herd of 1,000 cattle, said: "Standing with your hand up a cow’s backside at four o’clock in the morning is probably less enjoyable than dealing with a cat who has a fever."

The third-generation farmer added: "There are fewer and fewer [vets] dealing with large livestock because it just isn’t as profitable as charging ridiculous fortunes to do domestic animals. A lot of practices now are owned by private equity firms in the city, and that’s why they have all jacked their prices up. Veterinary prices have got stupid."

Charlie Sutcliffe,71, who took over Tetford Longhorns Farm near Horncastle in 1983, described the south of Lincolnshire as a "wasteland when it comes to vets".

He added: "It’s so much more pleasant to treat dogs and cats and gerbils and budgerigars than going out on a farm in the wet, the mud and cow poo and all the rest of it, doing what can be hazardous, to put it mildly."

Gareth Wyn Jones, a sheep farmer who runs a 350-year-old farm with his family in North Wales, commented: “It is going to be difficult to get more big animal vets when they can have somebody coming in the morning to look at a cat or a budgie and make 200 quid in half an hour rather than travelling out to a farm to do a caesarean on a big cow or castrate a bull, which can be quite a dangerous job."