Vet Marlborough shares symbiotic relationships with farmers

Vet Marlborough’s rural team.

Developing strong relationships with the productive sector is vital to the veterinary industry going forward, a Blenheim-based vet says. Vet Marlborough, with a team of 25 staff, six making up the rural team, has seen a number of changes in the industry over its two and a half decades, including a huge shift in land use away from livestock. It was vital the two industries continued to work closely together, rural business manager Heath Dickson said.

“If [the farmers] don’t grow then we can’t expect to either. It is a symbiotic relationship, and we rely heavily on each other.”

“The main thing for me is supporting clients through giving the right advice and knowledge – being in it with them. We have lost many farms over the last 26 years to vineyards and forestry. Many properties in Marlborough will now have both an agriculture and viticulture revenue stream helping ease the ever-increasing pressure on traditional farming operations.”

“The ones that are left, we are in it with them. We have to make sure we are doing the best for the farmers. We have to be working together. This meant being a trusted advisor, keeping farmers up to date with the latest technology and advances, and being at the forefront of any challenges coming through.” The team was focused on growing the profits of clients. “Because if they don’t grow then we can’t expect to either. It is a symbiotic relationship, and we rely heavily on each other.”

The clinic also sponsors a number of local rural events and competitions and hosts field days during the year as another way to support the local industry. “Whenever we get approached, we do our best to give back.”

Vet Marlborough has a special interest in orthopedics in dogs as well as artificial insemination and semen collection and storage. It can also carry out laparoscopic surgery, which reduces recovery time dramatically, rural business manager Heath Dickson explains. The rural team mainly worked with sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle, equine, deer and occasionally pigs, alpacas and llamas, he said.

The clinic services a huge area, travelling as far as Kekerengu on the east coast, the beginning of Molesworth Station up the Awatere Valley, an hour up both Waihopai and Wairau Valleys, past Rai Valley, and the Marlborough Sounds – even out to d’Urville Island.

It has been a challenging time for the industry with a significant veterinary shortage that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Heath said. Supplier innovation had grown hugely in the companion animal industry, but agriculture has taken a back seat in a big way, Heath said.

Another huge challenge was the constantly changing climate. “We are noticing more challenges that for many years, we deemed a North Island problem. For example, facial eczema was now much more of a threat as well as many more cases of Barber’s Pole being reported. Production expectations needed to be kept in check too.”

“The harder we push livestock the more we will be impacted by animal health issues, so we need to help our clients walk the tightrope and balance their expectations with the reality of the environmental and economic factors we face every day.”

There was also a desperate need for innovation. “There just isn’t the interest from big global companies to invest in R&D (research and development), and so we need to protect the products we currently have available. There are no new drench chemicals or fly strike preventative chemicals coming to the market, so once parasites become resistant to these products, we will be in big trouble. This puts a bigger emphasis on genetic selection and regular testing of the products we use.”

For the future, the clinic is looking to expand the premises, growing from two consult rooms to 4 and 1 surgery room to two. Heath sees the clinic continuing with a similar service, but bigger and busier.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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