FW Awards finalist: Mad about the job

Jonathan Statham

Bishopton Vet Group, Ripon, North Yorkshire

To describe Livestock Adviser of the Year finalist Jonathan Statham as passionate about his job would be to do one of North Yorkshire’s best-known vets a massive disservice. He is quite frankly mad about livestock and helping livestock farmers make the most of their animals.

Having been in practice for 12 years since graduating from Cambridge, Jonathan has for the past nine years been able to indulge his passion by at the Bishopton Vet Group as one of its specialist large-animal vets, working with beef and dairy farmers.

“I was extremely lucky to join a progressive farm-animal practice after three years in mixed practice, and am now working with farmers committed to their future in livestock farming.

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“A large part of my work is based on herd health planning, helping farmers maximise profits through maximum productivity and minimal health issues. We have a team approach at Bishopton and I have been able to help build that team in the past nine years and encourage farmers to take a proactive and preventative attitiude to animal health.

“I like to think about where I can make a difference to my clients’ businesses this includes involving them in health schemes and educating and training them to be better at health management, rather than disease treatment.”

But he admits with some clients it has been a hard sell. Not all clients have embraced this approach wholeheartedly from the outset. “We now break farms down into different tiers of input and investment. Some are fully committed to health planning, while others are only just on the first rung of the ladder. However, the main thing is to get them to embrace it at some level. Once they’ve bought into the idea they soon begin to see the benefits and commit further.”

For Jonathan one of the keys to getting clients engaged has been regular meetings which highlight the financial benefits being seen by clients. “This relies on good data and we have two lay staff to enter records into the practice’s database and analyse the results. This information includes both health and disease data and physical perfomance data, such as carcass weights and grades, calving percentages and milk output.”

And it is this integrated team approach which he believes is the future to vet practice. “Working with nutritional advisers, financial consultants and breeding specialists is all part of the job and helps farmers make more of their businesses.”

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But like all good advice, Jonathan’s time comes at a price, although like many vets he is keen to ensure farmers pay for his advice through transparent, fair rates rather than through inflated drug prices. “Most of our best farmers understand that the advice is the part of the service which makes a difference to their business. The drugs just help them implement the change.”

Key to the future of the business is a new generation of vets coming through and while Jonathan has been key to changing the face of the Bishopton group, he recognises the need to help younger vets. “In many cases young vets struggle to see much on-farm work, so often we send our young vets out to do routine work, such as pregnancy diagnosis, this gets them on farm and gives them the chance to engage with farmers.

“We also try to involve young vets in farmer eductation to keep them up to speed with the latest developments, too.”

What the judges liked

  • Passion for livestock farming
  • Team approach to farming
  • Encouraging data recording/analysis
  • Recognised and respected by peers

Adviser facts

  • Specialist farm animal vet
  • 16-vet mixed practice
  • Adviser to industry bodies
  • Promoted farm health planning