Farmers Weekly Awards 2018: Farm Adviser of the Year

Farm vet Oliver Hodgkinson is the Farmers Weekly 2018 Farm Adviser of the year.

Good farm advisers are seen by their clients as a necessary cost, solving issues as and when problems crop up.

The best advisers make the leap from being a cost to a key driver of profit for the businesses they advise, using their vast knowledge base to identify areas to trim costs, increase health and fully use available schemes and grants.

The standout ones are not satisfied with just assisting their own clients, and want to see the agriculture industry as a whole become more profitable, safe, and in Welsh farm vet Oliver Hodgkinson’s case, have higher standards of welfare.

See also: Meet the 2018 Farm Adviser of the Year finalists

Oliver Hodgkinson

Trefaldwyn Vets, Montgomery, Powys

Oliver Hodgkinson

Oliver Hodgkinson © Richard Stanton

Adviser facts

  • Joined independent Trefaldwyn vets, Powys, Wales, in 2009 as a partner
  • Balances managing 20 members of staff, including 10 vets, with ensuring he is on farm for at least half of each day
  • Sits on the steering group for BVD Wales and has sat on the board for BVD Free (England), Red Tractor dairy sector and the British Cattle Veterinary Association

Since joining independent veterinary practise Trefaldwyn Vets in 2009 as a partner, Oliver has made it his primary objective to move from firefighting problems with medication to proactive health planning for his client base of 200 beef, sheep and dairy farms.

For clients such as dairy farmer Fraser Jones, Oliver’s input is not only critical to the day-to-day running of the 2,000-strong dairy herd through his health planning and benchmarking services, but he has also given Fraser the confidence to make radical changes in the pursuit of better welfare.

His unwavering commitment to good husbandry has seen bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) eradicated at the farm through a tightened vaccination programme, bulk milk tank testing and a strict culling policy.

Oliver’s mantra that a healthy and happy cow means a happy farmer is reflected in the 26% drop in antibiotics use and 20% rise in fertility at the farm.

His approach of providing a good, honest service has not only been beneficial for clients, pushing up their profitability, but also for the practice, winning new farm business despite stiff competition from the eight other practices in the area.

Seven beef and sheep farms were added to the books last year, consistent growth that has helped double the number of vets Oliver employs.

Industry influence

Between juggling hands-on time on the farm with running a busy mixed practise, Oliver’s commitment to welfare has seen him take on several roles outside of his day-to-day work in the pursuit of industry-wide progress.

Serving as a board member of the Red Tractor Dairy sector, the British Cattle Veterinary Association, and both BVD Free and BVD Wales, he has been able to effect a bigger influence for the better on the livestock sector generally.

Alongside these commitments he also finds the time to help progress the careers of other vets, marking case reports and examining for the University of Liverpool, and holding continued professional development days for vets each year.

Despite this, Oliver’s number one priority remains the animals under his care. By using a body of data to make health decisions and championing best practise he hopes to be able to tackle the “tail-end” of husbandry.

Besides his passion, Oliver’s ability to communicate with both farmers and the wider public makes him among the very best of advisers and makes driving up standards a very real goal.

Winning ways

  • Desire to bring standards of farming up through easy, low-cost changes such as calf jackets and cubicles
  • Collects and tracks data to inform health decisions on farm
  • Uses a monthly newsletter to highlight current health issues and champion best practice
  • Actively guards against becoming too insular as a small, independent practice by being involved in industry-wide bodies

A word from our independent judge

“Oliver’s commitment and dedication to the health, welfare and productivity of his clients’ livestock shone through – from his attention to detail combined with holistic thinking about the whole farm.”

Paul Wilson, Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Nottingham

Farmers Weekly 2018 Farm Adviser of the Year is sponsored by Arysta LifeScience

The other finalist was:

  • David Canty, Strutt & Parker, St Albans, Hertfordshire

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