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Team approach leads to awards for practice and clients

01 December 2010, at 12:00am

reports on the successful merger of the livestock divisions of two practices in the south-west

SYNERGY Farm Health, a member of the XL Vets group, is a relatively new company founded just over a year ago. The practice results from merging the livestock divisions of Kingfisher and Southfield who together had long histories servicing farms in Somerset, Dorset and East Devon. 

The team of six veterinary directors comprises Trevor Green as chairman, Mark Burnell, Alastair Hayton and Jonathan Reader who hold Diplomas in Cattle Medicine, plus Jereme Darke and Andrew Davies with RCVS Certificates in Cattle Health and Production. 

One year on, they are now able to reflect on their original vision for the practice currently serving approximately 40,000 dairy cows in the region, which is to provide excellent clinical solutions that fit with the farmer’s requirements, whilst continually striving to improve their own operational efficiencies.

The practice employs a total of 21 large animal vets, three of whom are dedicated to TB, but with 11 support staff, five paraprofessionals and three dedicated SQPs, the practice is fully equipped to offer what they describe as a totally holistic approach to improving health and productivity within the herds and flocks under their care.

A team approach both within the practice and on farm, particularly for the larger herds, is core to their management principles. The practice’s five paraprofessionals perform routine farm management tasks such as foot trimming, mobility scoring, freeze branding plus a comprehensive heifer rearing service.

Mark Burnell was recently awarded the title of Farmers Weekly Adviser of the Year. He recognised ahead of their business merger that to succeed and equip the business effectively for the future, they not only needed to provide excellent service (without relying on the profit margins provided by drug sales) but also operate on a larger scale to make cost savings.

In addition to this advisory award, two of Synergy Farm Health’s own clients were also awarded Beef and Dairy Farmer awards at the same event. The Beef Farmer of the year, John Hoskin, was also named overall Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year 2010. The judges commented that he was “a great advert for modern farming – with emphasis on quality food production whilst retaining traditional values”.

Jonathan Reader recently took the award for “best poster” at the 2010 British Mastitis Conference and also consults for the 2010 Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year, Neil Baker, where he is an integral part of the farm team. Jon, supported by Jereme Darke, is on farm twice a week and helps to shape the way the farm progresses.

Synergy believes that a farm vet should be part of the business structure within larger dairy units such as this. Neil Baker manages 1,000 dairy cows and accepts that health performance, with KPIs to match, is crucial to his business development. Mastitis is down to 11 cases per 100 cows per year and lameness down to 6.9%, but the targets have now reduced to zero.

The paraprofessionals perform mobility scores on his herd every fortnight. Neil’s focus is on prevention and he admits that, “with this many cows, you’ve got to do it right”.

Alan King, Synergy’s commercial manager, has many years’ experience within farming and retail sectors and fully recognises that IT and data capture is a crucial part of their business and service angle going forward.

The paraprofessionals are equipped with “ruggedized” laptop computers allowing them to directly record mobility scores on farm and instantly provide printouts to graphically demonstrate herd trends and provide lists of cows that require foot trimming. The foot trimmers are equipped with state-of-the-art crushes, making them as efficient and effective as possible.

Diagnostic facilities

Full diagnostic facilities are provided at the practice laboratory in Evershot, Dorset. Here, two fully qualified lab technicians conduct a full array of services. The practice is also able to offer post mortem services to other practices within the Frome Vale fallen stock scheme.

Appreciating the importance of drug sales and accurate on-farm use, Synergy has developed a partnership with a local agricultural merchant, Bartlett Country Stores, where it provides SQP sales staff within three stores. As the practice SQPs, they are also able to ensure that best practice is maintained and that appropriate diagnostics are employed to support drug use wherever possible.

The practice also manages the dispensing and delivery of POM-V products to one of eight collection points within the practice’s territory for same day collection by farm clients.

Synergy actively participates in education and research across the country. Alastair Hayton heads the consultancy and research division of the business and also sits on several examination boards.

Andrew Davies is one of the XL Vets’ group directors and all Synergy vets participate in the XL Farm Skills LANTRA training. The practice offers large animal extramural veterinary student teaching for the Bristol, Nottingham and London veterinary schools.

This year Synergy Farm Health was present at the South West Dairy Event and has also held a highly successful open day for clients at its headquarters in Evershot.

The practice supports all its routine communications with a comprehensive website – – and maintains that business growth in this sector comes from developing new initiatives for existing clients and by working smarter. 

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