Vet’s incredible tale that spanned 40 years and the country
VETERINARIAN Dr Richard Neagle has decided to hang up his stethoscope after 40 years of caring for animals, big and small.
The 64 year old announced his retirement to the team at Yeppoon Vet Surgery late last month and will bid farewell to the practice he bought 20 years ago this Friday.
Dr Neagle’s journey started in 1980, when he graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science.
His first job was working for the Northern Territory department of primary production based in Alice Springs.
He said the work mainly involved tuberculosis and brucellosis testing on the cattle stations surrounding Alice Springs.
“At that time there was a federal and state government campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis from the Australian cattle herd,” he said.
“The work involved long hours in dusty cattle yards and a lot of camping out overnight.”
He spent two years in Alice Springs before pursuing a career in a general dairy cattle practice in Noorat, Victoria.
However, he said he did not leave Alice Springs empty-handed. It was there he met his future wife Cheryl, who he proposed to over the phone from Noorat.
He said the job in Noorat “petered” out after six months.
He then moved to Brisbane to take up job at the Park Ridge veterinary hospital, which mainly involved working with small animals and some equine work.
It was not too long before the job at Park Ridge also “petered” out, Dr Neagle said.
In October 1983, the couple decided to put their possessions into storage and head to England to try their luck there.
He said he worked in three different practices, two in Nottinghamshire and one in Shropshire in the castle town of Ludlow.
He said the work in all three practices was very busy but also very enjoyable.
“I gained a lot of valuable experience with both small and large animals,” he said.
“One of the highlights of working in the United Kingdom was the very friendly and welcoming way we were treated.
“We were also lucky enough to do a road trip tour of Ireland and Scotland with my parents, as well as our newborn daughter Laura.”
The young family returned to Australia in October 1985, where Mr Neagle took up a position at the Burleigh Heads veterinary surgery on the Gold Coast.
However, an opportunity soon arose to obtain training in the newly developing field of embryo transfer in cattle.
After training in South Australia, Dr Neagle moved his family to Tamworth, New South Wales, with the aim of establishing an embryo transfer practice.
The family spent eight years in Tamworth, from 1986 to 1994, before packing up and moving to Coffs Harbour, where Dr Neagle took up a position at Rose Ave Veterinary Hospital, where he brushed up on his “rather rusty” small animal medical and surgical skills.
He said the embryo transfer practice in Tamworth was taking its toll on himself and the family.
“Many nights were spent on the road travelling around New South Wales,” he said.
“It was not my preferred way of raising a young family.”
In 1998, Dr Neagle and his family arrived in Rockhampton, with his sights set on purchasing his own small animal practice.
He worked for Peter Lawton at the Capricorn Veterinary Surgery for about 12 months, before doing a short stint in the Lakes Creek Meatworks as a meatworks veterinarian.
Still looking to purchase a small animal practice, he saw Dr Rebecca Williams was advertising her practice for sale in Yeppoon.
“It looked like a great opportunity and I was able to scrape up just enough money to purchase the practice after selling some wagyu cross cattle we had in Northern New South Wales to a feedlot,” he said.
In March 2000, Dr Neagle moved his wife and six children to Yeppoon where he took over the Yeppoon Veterinary Surgery.
“From day one we were blessed to have a relatively busy practice which was largely due to the great work of Dr Rebecca Williams, the previous owner,” he said.
“Luckily there was also a great initial nursing and reception staff in place.
“Those initial years now seem rather a blur. Long hours and most nights on call.
“But we had landed in a great town and a great community. The number of disagreeable clients I have had over the years I could count on one hand, but I could not begin to count the number of truly excellent ones.
“Owning the practice in Yeppoon would be the highlight of my career.”
The practice grew steadily over the years. In 2006, the practice moved from the premises on Arthur St, Yeppoon, to Industrial Ave.
After years of steady growth, Dr Neagle made the decision in 2015 to sell the practice to a corporate buyer, National Veterinary Care.
He said in the past two years he had started to reduce his workload, with Dr Fiona Cobbold taking over as head veterinarian.
He said it was with mixed feelings he made the decision to retire from work.
He said his decision was a combination of a few things.
“My mobility is not as good as I would like it since a back surgery in 2014 and the knees are also feeling their age,” he said.
“I would also like to have some time to prepare my small acreage to be a lot more self-sufficient.
“I am sure the practice will continue to grow and provide compassionate and affordable veterinary care to Capricorn Coast under the direction and guidance of Dr Fiona Cobbold and practice manager Jo Kunkle, with the assistance of younger veterinarians Dr Mariner Travers and Dr Elizabeth Watt and the whole nursing team.
“I may even continue to help out a bit at the practice here and there.”
Looking back, Dr Neagle said there were a couple of reasons why he wanted to become a veterinarian.
He said when he was younger his beloved pet dog, Rusty, had the misfortune of picking up a strychnine bait.
“I was so grateful when dad called out the local vet, who Rusty back to his surgery,” he said.
“We followed soon after only to see Rusty sound asleep under anaesthetic when we arrived.
“The vet said he had a 50-50 chance of being alive in the morning.
“Many a prayer was said that night and we were overjoyed to see Rusty the next morning completely back to normal.
“I was truly impressed with that vet who in my mind could perform such an amazing feat, and the seed was planted.”
He said he also had a desire to somehow “get into the country”.
“Growing up I heard night after night stories from dad of his days in the bush on his property “Gaylong” in Capella,” he said.
“I guess this was an incentive for me to somehow make my way back to the bush as a country vet.”
He said he was going to miss his clients and being able to make a difference to people’s lives by helping to bring their pets to health through surgery or medical intervention.
For now, he said he would spend his days trying to convert his small acreage into a more self-sustaining farmlet.
“This will probably take up most of our time over the next year or so,” he said.
“Some travelling would be nice, especially to catch up with the extended family.
“I am also doing an online Catholic theology course, as well as attempting to learn Latin.
“I would like to thank all the people who have worked with me and for me over the years. “We have had a great team here in Yeppoon, I can’t remember ever having a bad employee.
“I would like to thank my wife Cheryl for being by my side throughout this journey. She helped with the practice in the early days and has kept the show running at home while I was able to work long hours.
“I would also like to thank the Yeppoon community for giving me a chance. We came to Yeppoon broke, with six kids to support, and Yeppoon has given us a leg up. It has been a great community to live in and I would hope to repay some of what the community has given me in the next 10 years.”