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Innovative young vet network helps farmers improve flock health

In a recent Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) survey, over 50% of vets questioned said that delivering pro-active health planning advice to beef and sheep farmers helped to improve productivity on Welsh farms.

The study looking at how vets view health planning is part of work undertaken for the EU- and Welsh Government-funded Stoc+ Project which promotes proactive flock and herd health management, to help Wales lead the world in animal welfare, sustainability and efficiency.

The in-depth interviews, survey and focus groups that engaged with over 50 of Wales’ veterinary officers showed that there was a subtle difference in levels of confidence between the more recently graduated vets compared to the more experienced veterinary officers.

The research found that whilst newer vet graduates held more positive attitudes towards farm health planning compared to the more senior vets, they were limited in their ability to advise because of their lack of experience and broader working cultures and practices.

Lowri Thomas, Flock & Herd Health Officer for HCC said: “That is the reason we’ve set up a new and exciting initiative for newly graduated large animal vets where they are given the opportunity to meet and network, whilst at the same time accessing some specialist advice from industry led experts.”

The first session held recently at Bala shared vital knowledge around the number one health priority for Stoc+ farmers, sheep lameness. Experts Joe Angell and Phillipa Page were on hand to discuss with the young vets how to work with farmers to implement the latest management techniques on farms to minimise the impact lameness has on sheep production.

50% of Stoc+ farmers identified that lameness in sheep was the main health issue they needed to tackle on their farms, closely followed by worm control and sheep fertility.

One of the attendee vets, Rosie Ling from Wern Vets, Ruthin said: “I am really glad I took the time to attend. That session alone gave me the knowledge and inspiration to become much more involved in tackling lameness on farms.

“A couple of days after the event I rang a farmer who I knew had a lameness problem, so I could come up with a better plan for him. There is now a lot more I feel I can do to help farmers with this issue.”

Lowri Thomas, from HCC said: “It is reassuring that this survey also found that the vets and farmers have a close working relationship and are confident to tackle any health needs on individual farms.

“The research has, however, helped us better understand where we can support the younger vets to help our farmers improve the health of our beef herd and sheep flock in Wales.

“We will now build on the success of the first session and arrange another three events looking at specific topics for the vets in the coming weeks,” explains Lowri Thomas.

The vet research carried out by Stoc+ confirmed that 82.5% of the vets questioned felt confident in offering advice to farmers regarding their individual health planning needs whilst out on farms.

HCC’s Stoc+ is one of three 5-year projects in the Red Meat Development Programme funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.