Practices on show - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Practices on show

Veterinary Practice visited the Dairy Event in Somerset to see what practices were up to

Specialist farm veterinary practices are increasingly looking for the means to connect with clients and to expand their businesses. Farmers are only too aware that some practices have struggled, and continue to struggle, with the demands for veterinary services on the farm.

Farmers have also struggled with costs and benefits and the line that says “vet & med costs” in the accounts needs to be restructured and assurance given that if the costs increase so do the benefits.

When veterinary practices decided to exhibit at the Dairy Show at the Bath and West Showground in October, the returns for dairy farmers were meagre. But by the time of the show there was a quiet feeling of optimism as prices for milk and beef were on the up. So the timing was right, the practices had put on their collective thinking caps, money and staff had been allocated, printers and stand designers had done their stuff. So how did each practice’s efforts appear to visitors arriving at each stand?

Some stands overlooked the judging area and a flight of stairs had to be mounted to reach them. Others were in a “technical” area and some chose to be closer to the cattle lines. There were cosy areas and areas where the wind blew to threaten the literature. All the usual issues that contribute to exhibiting at an agricultural event.

There was a substantial, wellmarked presence from the practice nearest to the showground, Shepton Veterinary Group. The practice literature asked the question, “Why are we different?” Eight areas of difference were identified: low cost medicines; dedicated team of seven dairy vets servicing 24,000 dairy cows; free ’phone advice; farmer meetings, newsletters, discussion groups; farm open days, etc.; proactive approach with practical advice on fertility, mastitis, lameness, preventive medicine and production; over 100 years of expertise in dairy practice; DAISY bureau “to manage information for your dairy herd providing you with the information you need to run your herd”; and training. The practice is part of the national XLVets group, providing “excellence in practice” and “committed to the future of British agriculture”.

Farm Animal Services from the Delaware Veterinary Group at Castle Cary offered, in its literature, a fullypadded large animal operating theatre with facilities for hospitalisation, surgical recovery and standing surgery. Also offered was a wide range of practical experience in the prevention and correction of suboptimal herd yields and/or milk quality.

“We undertake ration examination, dung scoring, rumen fill assessment and pH investigations; experience in investigating and advising on all aspects of mastitis, cell count and bactoscan problems; full farm record analysis, strategic sampling and on-farm milking visits including dynamic milking machine testing; ultrasound scanning for early pregnancy diagnosis and accurate assessment of the reproductive tract of farm animals at fertility visits.”

Computerised records

Also highlighted was the use of fully computerised records with Interherd for health and fertility and Dietcheck for optimising ruminant nutrition; lameness advice; an in-house laboratory; a cattle foot trimming service utilising an electric cattle crush; herd health planning; discussion meetings and training.

The availability of scones with jam and cream attracted great attention. Not least from Roger Eddy, retired from a neighbouring practice, who accepted a scone with relish from Nick Perkins together with a Delaware Group hat. Nick made the point that their presence at the show was primarily to show clients that the practice was committed to the future of dairying.

Nearby was an example of a different approach from the Garston Group. This practice has a museum of oddities and examples of doubleheaded calves and other deformities were displayed, including a many legged beast. There were also stress-relieving squeezies, which attracted the younger visitors.

Duncan Williams and Chris Mangham chatted to everyone who wandered past and their experiences with the animals at Longleat proved to be an interesting topic.

The organic aspect of dairying was presented by Stephen Turner, with emphasis on the family dairy and beef farm (www.browncoworganics.co.uk) with direct beef sales from the on-farm butchery. The nutritional balance for cattle was promoted with emphasis on the soil: “Get the soil right and many disease and production problems are eliminated.” Stephen stated that he is as much a nutritionist as a vet and provides an individual service to clients.

One of the practices with the longest experience of exhibiting at this show is the Kingfisher Group from Crewkerne. Together with Southfield from Dorchester they were promoting a Synergy Farm Health Heifer Monitoring Programme with displays and literature that stimulated considerable discussion.

A package of support is available that targets improvements in the growth and fertility of heifers. Included are a specific heifer plan for the farm; worm and fluke egg counts four times during the heifer rearing period; growth and condition score with a minimum of eight weighings with analysis of the results and feedback; colostrum quality and intake assessment; and pregnancy diagnosis. Trials have indicated an investment of £13.50 per heifer for a return of £183. The service is available for all farmers to take up in collaboration with their own vets.

The traditional Kingfisher plastic cow, loaded with items for farmers to locate per rectum, has been replaced by a targeted promotion. Kat Bazeley explained the programme to clients of all ages.

Battling somewhat with the draught from the wide open doorway were Emily Simcock and Jayne Dawson from the St David’s Farm Practice near Exeter: “a modern veterinary service for a modern farming era”. Promoted were the advantages of being “a purely farm animal practice which specialises in farm animals to the exclusion of all others”.

Corporate approach

Emphasis was placed on the corporate approach with integrated businesses for farm, equine, poultry and IT. Each farmer client has his or her own “designated vet who will deal with all routine visits”. An online ordering service for drugs is available with the development of a drug delivery service.

Not a practice, but very much a part of the veterinary support concept, is Quality Milk Management Services Ltd (www.qmms.co.uk), which provides laboratory and consultancy services. The message is to “add value to the milk recording and bacteriology data produced”.

Established by Andrew Bradley, clients include conventional and organic farmers, vets, co-operatives, processors, universities and pharmaceutical firms. Chris Hudson from Bristol University was helping out and together with Barbara Payne and Emily Coombes held detailed discussions with visitors.

Possibly the longest stand belonged to the Westpoint Veterinary Group but it was in a rather isolated location. This group exhibits regularly; a base in Somerset is not listed on the literature but the county is clearly targeted for practice development. The costs for visits are printed for all to consider: the veterinary charge is £110 per hour.

Promotion of farmacy.co.uk was part of the stand: “in conjunction with your own vet it offers a cost-effective approach to livestock health and well being, via prescription and non prescription medications from the internet, advice, training and education online and proactive health programmes targeting specific disease areas”.

The Dairy Show offers an opportunity to review the very wide veterinary support for dairy farmers in the region. Practices are changing their approach to meet the needs of clients but not everyone has the same needs and there is still room for individuality.

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