Farmers Weekly Sheep Farmer of the Year celebrates close collaboration with vet

Wiltshire sheep farmer, Tim White, recently won an impressive two categories in the 2021 Farmers Weekly Awards and is celebrating the benefits of close collaboration with his vet Emily Gascoigne from Synergy Farm Health. Tim was named both Sheep Farmer of the Year and Innovator of the Year and has worked closely with Emily on streamlining his operations with a proactive approach. With client relationships identified as the number one motivating factor for farm vets in a recent Farmers Weekly survey.* Emily has also spoken out about how powerful and rewarding these close collaborations can be.

The Farmers Weekly awards recognised Tim’s pioneering work in developing the wool-shedding Exlana breed, selecting for characteristics including parasite resistance and tail length reduction. Tim explains that these features make the breed self-sufficient and resilient, which is crucial for his setup as a tenant farmer with breeding ewes kept across several blocks of land. The breeding programme is not just about labour reduction though: the reduced need for docking will increasingly appeal to consumers as public awareness about welfare and environmental impact continues to rise.

“Tim is very mindful of how consumer behaviour will evolve in the future,” says his vet Emily Gascoigne. “He has a very progressive attitude to sheep farming and these awards are a testament to his enthusiasm, passion, curiosity and imagination.”

Tim and Emily work together taking a proactive flock health planning approach, setting goals at quarterly meetings and using health screening and benchmarking. Tim says this consultative approach, coupled with Emily’s enthusiasm for achieving the best in sheep farming, has had a significant impact on his business. “Emily’s input as a consultant has made a dramatic difference to my business and to the welfare of the sheep,” he says. “Since we’ve been working together, I’ve seen a notable increase in productivity, and my dead stock removal bill has reduced dramatically, which is a real litmus test!”

Emily says their collaborative work is good for stretching her ideas as a vet too. “Tim’s constantly striving to progress his business and also the industry – so talking through ideas with him really gets the cogs working from a veterinary perspective,” she says. “As a farm vet, there is lots of satisfaction to be gained working with clients with progressive attitudes, where we can mirror each other’s enthusiasm and build on new ideas together.”

Emily’s positive views on vet-farmer relationships are widely shared across the veterinary world. Relationships with clients were identified as the number one motivating factor for farm vets in a recent survey conducted by Farmers Weekly,* and Emily explains that developing these strong relationships is part of the ethos at her practice Synergy Farm Health.

“In farm vetting, continuity of care is so important to deliver value as you need that thorough understanding of the individual farmer’s business,” she says. “So, at Synergy we make it our aim to have a consistent vet-led team for each farm, with a primary vet and perhaps a secondary vet alongside technicians and animal health assistants too, who can all collaborate and share their knowledge to do the best for that farm.”

Synergy Farm Health is committed to providing outstanding farm animal veterinary services and is a proud member of XLVets, a community of independent practices that collaborate with each other to share skills, knowledge and experience. Alice Renner, Farm Marketing Executive at XLVets, explains how pleased she was to hear about Tim’s success. “We are incredibly fortunate to have vets like Emily within the XLVets community. She is an incredible role model for the next generation and takes real joy in her work as a vet and the work she does in partnership with clients.” she says, “The award demonstrates Tim’s dedication and also the impact vets can have on the development and success of farm business.” 

Across the XLVets community, members work together to continually improve standards of client care and animal welfare. To find out more about XLVets, visit https://www.xlvets.co.uk/the-boss/.

*Farmers Weekly Farm Veterinary survey carried out online in 2021 –  400 farmers and 426 veterinary surgeons responded.

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