Research highlights main concerns for sheep farmers engaging with vets

Major health issues have proven to be the main reason sheep farmers seek advice from vets, with many being hesitant to seek help too early due to perceived lack of expertise and a desire for self-sufficiency.

 

This has been revealed in a research study conducted by Bax Interaction on behalf of global pharmaceutical company Norbrook and the XLVets community of practices. The aim of the study was to better understand how and when sheep farmers engage with vets.

Chris Geddes, Marketing Manager at Norbrook, says the wide-ranging results provide an accurate picture of how and when sheep farmers access veterinary expertise, as well as recommendations for how to improve professional relationships for the benefit of the industry.

“Our initial findings show that there is a wealth of information and advice available to sheep farmers, so often the vet is not consulted. Added to this, some sheep farmers feel that there is a lack of specialist sheep knowledge and experience among farm vets – they attributed this to the high volume of dairy work in the UK, and the fact that vets are not spending time on sheep farms to the same extent as they do with cattle.”

Steve Bax, Managing Director of Bax Interaction, adds: “Relationships appear to be the most important factor in increasing sheep farmer engagement. There were some indications that the vet is seen as more important than the practice in this regard. A dedicated vet for a farm is one way that was suggested to increase engagement although sheep farmers recognised the cost and time constraints in delivering this.”

The results also demonstrated that flock health planning is seen as beneficial by most sheep farmers. This was identified as a good way for vets to be more involved with flock management and providing advice to sheep farmers, which could assist in building trust and closer relationships between vet and farmer.

Mr Geddes says the study has provided recommendations to address the issues highlighted: “Developing specialist sheep knowledge in the vet practice was suggested as a key engagement driver, as well as forging closer relationships to ensure successful engagement with sheep farmers.”

Lee-Anne Oliver, veterinary surgeon at Scott Mitchell Associates, a member of the XLVets community, explained that the results from this study are particularly useful to help veterinary practices to better understand, and ensure they meet the needs of their sheep farmers. “By listening to what our sheep farmers want from us and then working with them to develop our services, we can ensure we add value to their businesses.

 

“The research has provided a number of insights into how we, as veterinary surgeons, can further develop our own skills and assist our sheep farmers in more positive and proactive ways. Within the XLVets community, we have now developed a sheep networking group to facilitate this - The ‘Woolpack’, which consists of individuals with a passion for sheep from throughout the UK. By advancing our knowledge and skills – and by sharing this learning and experience across the XLVets community, we are certain that many more sheep farmers can benefit from the results of this study.”  

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