FW Awards 2010 winner: Livestock Adviser of the Year


Mark Burnell

Synergy Farm Health, Dorset

Sponsored by Silotite

Recognising the need to change the business and the service it offers its clients best summarises Mark Burnell’s ethos.

A director of Synergy Farm Health, a practice built round 17 farm vets, created last November, Mr Burnell has spearheaded a different approach to veterinary services in Dorset.

Already a partner in a smaller practice including six farm vets, he and his colleagues agreed to merge with the farming arm of another to combine talents and resources.

A key challenge was to change the business model so it was more focused on the advice and less on the mark-up made from sales of medicines. And although it was possible to tweak the fees to recover some of the lost medicines income, there was a need to look at scale to make cost savings.

So nearly a year on, how has it gone?

“Most vets are not trained in business management so probably we were a bit naive on what the merger was going to involve,” Mark says. “But what was exciting was that we would be working with more vets of a similar mind.”

Mark’s approach also recognises the need to make best use of resources.

With a lot of tasks being repeat technical procedures, a number of non-vets have been trained to carry out these tasks allowing the vets more time for consultancy and advice.

In addition three of his staff are Suitably Qualified Persons (SQPs) for dispensing and prescribing medicines and there’s a team of five para-professionals who do foot trimming, deliver the heifer rearing service (weighing animals and putting in advice programmes), freeze branding, disbudding and mobility scoring.

Possible changes to government TB testing arrangements could have an impact on the business since this role may be taken away from practices, but Mark says it should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Computer technology is playing an important part in Mark’s service. “We are developing a program for mobility scoring. We needed a system which was paperless and instant. Lameness is the thing so there’s going to be a drive for scoring.”

A key driver of the merger has also been to ensure there is the right “ladder” in place to encourage new vets to specialise in farm animals. “There’s a lack of supply of young vets,” Mark says. “It’s probably the fear factor, so getting confidence on farm is important.


• Director of Synergy Farm Health formed from business merger in autumn 2009

• Focus on quality advice

• Career progression for new vets crucial


• Enthusiasm for the job

• Defined strategy for the future

• Ability to bring all the team together

• Achieved buy-in for the importance of training


Edwards5WEBMark’s enthusiasm for what he does is clear. From his clients to his own team he’s bringing resources together to work for a common goal

Lyndon Edwards


louise aplinFarmers need the help of good advisers. All three finalists have demonstrated why and how their input provides such a crucial element to the success of their clients’ businesses. Congratulations, Mark.

Louise Aplin


howie• Neil Howie

Nantwich Veterinary Group, Cheshire

Neil is a champion of the smaller farms and with his focus on providing second-opinion and investigative work his clients are benefiting from his experience in herd health management

lees• Christine Lees

Homeopathy at Wellie Level, Wiltshire

Christine’s passion for advancing homeopathy on farm has benefited farmers across the country who appreciate her ability to make a complicated subject accessible

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