Young Farm Vet of the Year

Max Wood

Max Wood, Larkmead Veterinary Group

Young Farm Vet of the Year Max Wood qualified in 2012 and now works at Larkmead Veterinary Group in Oxfordshire.

He said the award recognised the good work that Larkmead Vets does for its clients. “It highlights the collaborative approach we take to improve pig welfare and production on farms. Personally, I am very pleased to have won – it was unexpected, but a welcome surprise.”

Max initially had little experience with pigs, but when one of the pig partners in the practice retired, an opportunity opened up to take on work supporting some of the farms she was working with.

“One particular farm used a local vet, but asked us to visit twice yearly to offer more expert advice,” Max said. “The local practice then ceased pig work, which gave me an opportunity to really get to grips with practices on farm.”

He said it became apparent that there was an over reliance on antibiotics to support unsustainable farming practices.

“The weaner diet was medicated with apramycin to combat scour. The flat deck accommodation was tired and it was clear that repairs to fans and heaters would be beneficial.”

The unit also began weaning into a prewarmed room, followed by the introduction of transition feeders to further improve the pigs’ feed intake, their resilience and therefore their resistance to disease. At the same time, apramycin was removed from the weaner diet with no ill-effects.

Max added: “The changes made to the weaners made for a better pig coming into the growers and we made some changes to allow us to drop the penicillin.”

But the main change was cleaning and disinfection between each batch. The regime was intermittent at best, happening only once every 12 months.

“The reduction in antibiotic usage has been significant and they are now running below industry target, having been nearly triple it. There has been no drop in health or welfare, and the client is pleased with the reduction his feed costs,” he said.

Max highlighted some big changes on the horizon, not least the removal of zinc oxide from diets, which he said would need ‘creative solutions’.

“Veterinary involvement is moving towards a more holistic approach. Disease, medicine and welfare remain our primary focus, but production and nutrition are also key areas we are asked for advice on,” he added.

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