Veteran Hawke's Bay veterinarian Mark Matthews wouldn't be the first, nor the last, to have a bit of an epiphany on the highway between Napier and Taupo.

That's when he decided the future of his career, and about three years later he's pulling the pin.

On Friday he ends a 44-year career which has its roots growing up on a farm, and the mid 1960s speaking with a careers adviser at Gisborne Boys' High School and deciding it was a "vet" he wanted to be.

For 30 of those 44 years he was a partner in Vet Services Hawke's Bay, coming from Pahiatua to establish a Hastings clinic in 1980, seeing it grow from a small operation of one vet and one nurse at a small site in Queen St to a significant operation with 14 vets and at least that many support staff in Heretaunga St West.


Rather than coming from any rationalisation or takeovers, it has come from the growth of the demand for veterinary services generally, the expansion with the move being way beyond expectations.

"It's just time to get out really," he said this week, explaining the latest move, and a break from something that has clearly dominated his life and that he really wanted to do.

"You've got to put a line in the sand."

Well travelled, as a bit of an international authority on sheep and beef production matters and having delivered papers to a variety of events overseas, he says the future will be more about the 14 grandchildren, some fishing and tramping, and mountainbiking on the new machine with which staff have farewelled him from the precincts.

Experiences at conferences, including talking with others at a congress in the UK last year, point him to a hope that if he was to volunteer some services it will be in regions which need the help.

The farm on which he grew up was a mixed bag with milking cows, pigs, lambing ewes and cropping, but he doubts he would have become a vet had it not been for the prompting by the careers adviser, when he himself reckoned he "didn't think I had enough brains".

"He looked at my exam results and said: You can," he recalled.

The pathway was indulging in the sciences — chemistry, physics and biology at school, before heading into the competitive environment of Massey University in 1969.


"Of the 35 on the list about 28 or so are still doing some sort of veterinary service," he says, working from the knowledge that goes with helping plan the next reunion.

He went on to do his masters in sheep surgery and medicine in 1983, leading to the development and promotion of sheep scanning to the important tool it has become in modern farming.

Colleagues say there are few with his array of veterinary skills and experience across the species, including pioneering embryo transfer in deer, goat medicine, ferret and ostrich medicine, and small animal medicine and orthopaedics, and equine welfare including being "vet-on-call" at the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings, to the more common role of farm consultancy.

He did dabble in the racehorse industry for a while, with some success, but as exciting as that may be, as key a role as vet-on-call at the Horse of the Year Show may be, and as intriguing as transfer of the embryo in deer may sound, he struggles to highlight a singlemost important achievement or event during his career.

But "eradication of brucellosis in cattle" would come close.