What was your first pet?
My first pet was a tabby cat called Tabitha
What is your favourite animal?
My favourite animals at the moment are my daughter’s pet pigs – Cinnamon & her son, Thunder – they are great company but make a horrible mess of our garden.
What was your funniest vet moment?
My most memorable and funny moments are rolled in together – ‘Well before I became a vet and was still a school girl/wannabe vet, one of our cats attacked my pet spiny mouse, tearing his face. We took him into our local vet practice whereby the vet picked him up by his tail which he rapidly detached – leaving the red-faced vet holding just a spiny mouse tail as the mouse sped off under the desk. Eventually (after lots of crawling around the surgery and reaching under furniture) we caught the mouse in a welly boot, anaesthetised him and the vet stitched up his face. His face recovered well … but he was always tail-less from that point on
What is your ultimate veterinary dream?
My ultimate vet dream is to have every sheep farmer in the UK actively engaging with an interested and committed sheep vet to ensure optimum flock health and welfare for the sheep and health, wealth and welfare for the shepherd.
Fiona Lovatt, specialist in sheep health and production, talks about what specialists in her field can offer to the British sheep industry.
The sheep industry in the UK is made up of many small and dispersed farms compared to many of the other agricultural sectors. Traditionally it has been seen as an industry that has low veterinary engagement due to the sale of many medicines through merchants rather than veterinary surgeons. However the UK is hugely significant in terms of global sheep production and in terms of UK agriculture, sheep and lamb make up over 40% of our total livestock biomass.
Individual sheep are low value animals compared to cattle or companion animals but their health and welfare is at least as important. We have always had the challenge of keeping veterinary surgeons at the heart of sheep enterprises by encouraging a relationship that provides value to both the farmer and the vet. A couple of years ago, I launched the concept of Flock Health Clubs – encouraging vets to facilitate groups of sheep farmer clients within clubs so that the farmers can benefit from peer to peer learning, encourage each other, benchmark farm performance in terms of welfare and productivity and share the cost of the vet.
Currently I have direct contact with over 360 sheep vets interested in Flock Health Club activity and ideas and in attending the sheep specific CPD courses that we run. Our last questionnaire to all interested vets in 2017 suggested there were 56 active Flock Health Clubs running throughout the country though we know more that have set up since then.
We have been working closely with the University of Nottingham to assess the impact of the Flock Health Clubs on both the sheep vets and farmers involved. This is primarily because the concept of the clubs was developed as a direct result of original research1 on the attitudes of sheep farmers and concluded that farmers of ‘small flocks could work together with a veterinarian and that they all could benefit financially’.
As part of a European project, iSAGE, telephone interviews have been held with FHC vets to assess their impact on both the veterinary practice and the sheep farmers. The results from both the FHC vets and farmer participants have been overwhelmingly positive with an overall impression that these clubs have triggered a revolution in how sheep farmers interact with veterinary surgeons and led to positive beneficial effects on sheep flock health, welfare and productivity.
Fiona Lovatt BVSc PhD FHEA DSHP DipECSRHM MRCVS