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Vet stalwart moves on

Stuart Bruere. PHOTO/FILE

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In 1961, when John Kennedy was visiting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration centre in Houston, he came across the janitor, and asked him what he did at NASA.

The janitor replied that he was helping to put a man on the moon.

In telling this story, well-known and highly respected Masterton-based veterinarian, Stuart Bruere, said, “the man knew his purpose and felt very much part of the team”.

Modestly, Bruere then spoke of his own 40-year career as a veterinarian in Wairarapa – “I’ve just been part of the team – Team Agriculture NZ”.

Starting out in 1980, working in Ruatoria for the Gisborne Vet Club, Bruere’s work incorporated servicing large sheep and beef properties.

“It was seasonal work, involving ram testing, cow pregnancy testing [manually], castrating colts, and undertaking orthopaedic work on the working dogs of the district.

“As the sole practitioner in the district, I got to do a wide range of things and learn proficiency in many routine tasks pretty quickly.

“The richness of this introduction to my career was deep and wide, ably mentored by my first boss, Mac Wallace – an iconic figure in the profession at that time – and my own father, Neil Bruere, also a veterinarian.”

In 1980, the sheep population of New Zealand was 80 million ewes.

Wool was the main source of income from sheep and beef farms and accounted for about 80 per cent of the sheep farmer’s income.

A lambing percentage of 110 was considered outstanding, and if lambs were weaned at better than 20kg live weight, most farmers were pretty happy.

The sheep retention scheme and rural subsidies were the order of the day.

This all changed from 1984 onwards when Roger Douglas, the Finance Minister under David Lange, cut subsidies, and farmers had the rug abruptly pulled out from under them.

As Bruere says, “it is no small measure of the resilience of the people of the land that most pulled through, sharper, smarter and ready to do business in an ever more challenging world in terms of trade negotiations and trade access”.

Today, wool production is no longer the key source of income.

Improved feeding of sheep – producing lambing percentages higher than 150, and lamb weaning weights at more than 30kg live – has led to sheep meat production being similar to the 1980s’ output, despite a decline in sheep numbers to 20 million.

Bruere attributes much of this success to science, and the contributions of veterinarians and agricultural advisers to the animal production sector.

Now facing the challenge of trading protectionism, European turmoil because of Brexit, and a profitable tourism industry in freefall thanks to a global pandemic, he said the lessons of the 80s would stand us in good stead.

“As a nation, we will once again have to fall back on our productive sector producing milk, meat, fibre, wine, horticultural products, and a range of highly specialised technologies to retain our place as a first world nation.”

As for his future plans, Bruere is leaving Vet Services Wairarapa, having built it into a thriving practice with an enviable reputation.

He departs on May 8.

He will continue making his mark as a senior lecturer at Massey University, in Palmerston North, one of the most highly regarded veterinary schools in the world.

Coincidentally, his father, Neil Bruere, was a foundation staff member at Massey.

“It will be a privilege to bring 40 years of clinical practice experience to the next generation of veterinarians.”


  1. Your father Neil , taught me strength and resilience as a young female vet student in what was then , almost entirely a male vocation -(1972-76) there were no female toilets at Massey in those days – he always challenged me and I won the sheep medicine prize-(probably to his great surprise ).
    I still practice in Kaiapoi – owner director of Marshall and Pringle Vet Clinic – not too far from Amberley where Neil began his Veterinary life, with sheep as his focus.
    I am sure future Massey students will be enriched by your deep knowledge, and you will continue your father’s teaching legacy with pride and professionalism .
    Very kind regards
    Barbara Pringle BVSC ( Distn) MACVSc

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