Sally Wilson MRCVS

Sally's Blog: Independent Mobility Inspection to be a New Requirement for Milk Contracts?

We have recently been contacted by The British Cattle Veterinary Association to say that there will soon be formed a Register of Mobility Scorers (RoMS). The register will be an independent, self-regulatory body which encourages the widespread use of standardised, independent mobility scoring conducted by trained and accredited scorers. Soon, it is likely that those farmers who have a Supermarket milk contract and, possibly, eventually all milk buyers will initially expect, and later require, those inspections to be conducted by a member of the RoMS.

We already perform a large amount of mobility scoring and have skilled and experienced scorers within our practice. We shall shortly be applying for membership of the RoMS so that we can continue to offer a high quality service at a reasonable price (i.e not vet rate!!)

As an optional additional service, we can also convert the raw list of scores into a report which monitors your herd's progress against previous months and keeps you up to speed with how the mobiity in your herd is developing. If there is a sign of deterioration, we will alert you early so that you can examine the issues and put measures in place to improve the situation as soon as possibe. 

Feel free to speak to us about the option of weekly or bimonthly mobility scoring with little to no effort required on your part (except for ensuring you pick up any lame cows we find!)



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Latest AI Course from Evolution - and it was a HUGE SUCCESS!!

We usually advertise our courses on Facebook, send a few emails around and generally put the word around. Somehow, this course filled up without my even noticing. Then I had an unexpected extra person who had booked on through a “friend of a client” so, as a result, it turned into the largest group I have taken to date. All thanks, therefore, to a helpful farm client in Dorchester, Tom King, offered to hold it at his farm in return for a place on the course for one of his staff. Tom has a brilliant set-up and 600 cows (which provided more than enough barreners to go round) making for an extremely good 3 days' teaching during what must have been one of the hottest June weeks on record!

Big farm, lots of barreners, locking yokes………..what more could a girl ask for?! Maybe a slightly cooler few days as we chose THE hottest few days in June recorded since the 1960s. But there was a great mixture of farming backgrounds represented, with a few suckler boys and a once-a-day-milking man in the audience which livened up proceedings somewhat, but the most confusing part of the whole three days was that, of the 8 people attending the course, 4 of them were called Dan!







It was great to take a group where everyone was so genuinely interested in learning and gaining a new skill. Thanks to all of them for showing so much enthusiasm and I hope that they will succeed in maintaining great fertility on their farms.


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Sheep Shearing Course 2016

On Saturday 18th June, we held our second sheep shearing course. We were lucky enough to hold it at Kim Sharpe's which is in a lovely spot behind Minehead- so we got a lovely view of the sea whilst also learning to shear!

Will Ellicott was our expert coach along with some help and equipment from Ben Miller. Ben is a good example of a successful delegate from last year's course. After having completed last year's course, he since went on to buy his own shearing trailor and has spent this season shearing small flocks of sheep. He has become quite good, although I would never tell him that!

We had 8 people on our course this year from all over Somerset and Dorset. Everyone was very keen to learn how to get going and, after the first few sheep "took one for the team" as Kim said, all the delagates got the hang of it very quickly.

Last year, I didn't get the chance to have a go so this year I was determined to try it (although was quite worried that I wouldn't be very good at it!) With help from both Will and Ben, I managed to shear 2 sheep. I was quite proud at the end and very surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I found the order and the neatness to it very satisfying and it was good to see your finished, shorn sheep going to join the rest of the bunch!

Kim and her parents were fantastic hosts, ensuring we all had tea, coffee and cake whenever we needed it and generally looking after us all really well.

The competition for the most neatly shorn sheep was won by Dan Cox from Moorlynch........well done Dan, we have a budding shearer in our midst! To see some more photos, go to our photo gallery

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British Cattle Breeders Club Conference Review, January 2015

British Cattle Breeding Club Conference..........Dairy Day...........Into a Brave New World

Setting off up the motorway to Telford, my sat-nav told me it would take 3.5 hours and I would arrive nicely at 530pm. Lots of time to have a child-free, relaxing drink before getting ready for a slap up roast beef dinner the night before the dairy day began. As it turned out, having sat in traffic for hours, I finally arrived at 7pm, just as the drinks reception was beginning. And so it turned into quite a busy night and day. The evening was spent chatting to other people in the industry, farmers, AI company directors, the president of just about every cattle body possible, and a few agri students. So, a great mix. No one had lost sight of the difficult times we are facing ("volatile" is the trendy word used to describe the dairy industry at the moment) but everyone seemed to have a positive long-term outlook on their future.

The dairy day began with Judith Bryans, CEO of Dairy UK who talked about her take on the current threats to the dairy industry. Dairy Alternatives are an area which Judith identified and which she thinks is underrated..........with £75m moved last year, these products (eg soya milk) are now mainstrean and taking up dairy space. "snackification" of breakfast was also mentioned.

Reputation risks were discussed at length and Judith hilighted examples of dubious science being quoted in the media, suggesting that consumption of milk was a health risk. She also highlighted an interesting example of a lady, a "Dr" (of geology), who believed that giving up milk cured her breast cancer. She had also received other conventional treatments such as chemotherapy but it was portrayed in the press that milk was actually the cause and was everything that was bad.

She went on to talk about the future of the industry. We will need 60% more food by 2050; South Asia's requirement for dairy will go up by 125% by 2030. This opens up an opportunity for us...........could we develop an export market I ask myself.


Nick Green, Lye Cross Farms, Alvis Brothers described their rise to success. He discussed the structure of the business which is based, not far from here, south of Bristol. He talked about the farm shop which they run, mostly as a marketing tool rather than a profit making venture and explained how they try to be innovative in what goods the sell and how they are presented. He described how they found they didn't get enough money for their milk so they decided to make and sell their own cheese. The by-products of this go to the herd of pigs and the waste from the pigs goes to the arable side of the business... a great self-sufficient triangle

Nick stated that he thinks there is considerable lack of understanding about where food comes from and impact on the environment which results in consumers decisions on what they eat. So communication and education are a big part of their business.


Peers Davies, a vet from Nottingham University described his PhD in which he studied S.uberis. This was a fasinating paper where he explained that S uberis exists in many forms (sequence types). When this was looked at in detail, it was found that there were191 strain types, many of which only appeared once on one farm. However, it was found that 9 strains were responsible for 40% of clinical cases. This means that, if a vaccine were developed to combat this particular strain of S uberis, around 40% of S uberis could potentially be removed. This is quite a significant finding which suggests an opening for vaccine development.

We were lucky to have two dairy farmers come to speak to us, to share their own personal experiences of running a dairy enterprise. David Homer, a Nuffield scholar, described how their business has gone from strength to strength since their 2 sons and 1 daughter decided to come home and farm. He firmly believes that a big reason behind their decision to come home was because he and his wife never forced or expected their kids to work on the farm. If they did want to help, they were always paid fairly and, if they didn't want to help, they were not forced. As a result, his daughter, who went to work in hospitality and social science, came home and has turned into the best calf rearer they have ever had. He stressed how, as a family, they have identified each other's strengths and weaknesses and they all respect these in each other. They work hard to make the best out of each other's skill sets, and work hard to improve the "triple bottom line"  this is a term he picked up in New Zealand and it depicts 3 areas: social/life, profit and environment. So, when times become tough, they remember their family mission statement "Balancing excellent farming with a high quality of life" I found this talk so inspirational- hearing a story of how a family has worked together to make a successful business while staying close, was very uplifiting. He did say the next hurdle is likley to be when sons/daughters-in-laws join the business. He expects this to add another dimension to the business but, as he said, as long as it is always talked about and considered, and they approach it in a similar way to previous changes in their business, there is no reason why it can't further enrich their future. Thank you David for brightening up my day!

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Pretend Cow

Not All Cows are Black and White............

I have to admit that I am so obsessed with Dairy Cows that I have pictures, paintings, tapestries dotted all around my house. The only problem with being obsessed with dairy cows is that my life tends to become dominated by two and white. As someone whose favourite colour is actually PINK, it was with great pleasure that I opened an email from one of my best friends and non-cow-enthusiast, Iain. It simply said "saw this and thought of you" And here is what he saw:



Wouldn't life be more interesting if the odd dairy cow was something other than black and white (the odd red and white cow excepted)?

As a farm animal vet who is used to working fulltime, 10 hour days minimum, most of which is spent scanning cows, I am clearly now getting withdrawal symptoms. Having had a baby girl 6 weeks ago, I am now, for a limited time only, playing the role of fulltime housewife. The best part of this (apart from the newborn baby bit which is sublime but means there is a lot of time pacing the floor at the sort of times that only dairy farmers frequent) is that I have nails for the first time in my life. The downside is that I miss my cows and I miss my farmers even more. Farmers are often thought to be "moany" "glass half full" sorts of people (quoting others, not myself of course!) But it is their banter that is the icing on the cake of each one of my working days. A farm animal vet friend and colleague of mine once said "farm animal vetting is like going out each day and helping out a mate" I couldn't agree more!

So, thanks Iain for these photos, the first cows I have seen in 6 weeks!

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Advanced Herdsperson's Course May 2014

The idea behind holding this course was simply that I had noticed that the best herdspeople seek to improve their skills with cows. They already have that "gift" which enables them to handle cattle naturally; to be able to recognise a sick cow in the distance based on a "gut feeling" rather than her level of dehydration; to spot a cow bulling just by her sniffing the air differently from usual. These are things that can't be taught and a gift which I always wish I possessed. But many herdspeople want to learn more advanced techniques and crave teaching around this subject. It occurred to me that there are things that I do every day as a vet, on which i had training at the best level and which I could effectively teach to such herdspeople in order to widen their skill-set.

So, the advanced herdsperson's course was born. Although I have taught many "bog standard" courses before, such as AI and foot trimming, I was more excited about teaching this course. I was conscious that the guys whom I was teaching were more skilled than I in their specific areas and I didn't want to teach them what they already know. I was also keen to encourage some knowledge transfer between delegates so that they could share experiences. 

I was very lucky as I had a very cool bunch of guys who all participated and also, without exception, showed great practical skills. There is nothing more rewarding than showing someone how to do something and then watching them perferct the technique almost immediately.

Thanks to all those who came along and watch this space for future similar courses.


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Toddler Vet Alert!

My May Day Bank Holiday Monday did not conjure up thoughts of lazy sunny days drinking lager in the garden with a bbq blazing....not this time. As many farmers are out preparing ground trying to get Maize drilled before the promised rain this afternoon, here in the farm vetting world, we have also been quite busy. In fact, we have been so busy that I find myself doing a routine visit on a Bank Hoilday Monday because that actually seemed easier than trying to find a slot to suit us both in the upcoming week.

While I was there doing my thing, we got a surprise visit from the rest of my little family. Miles, husband and practice manager decided to bring our 2 year old, Beren for a little look to "see what Mummy does for a job".

Whilst spending most of my time with my hand up the cow's bottom and my scanning goggles on, I had quite a few questions to contend with:


"Mummy, are you a farmer?"

"Mummy, what are you doing?"

"Mummy, why are you so dirty and covered in poo?"

"Mummy, what are you putting in that cow?"

"Mummy, that cow is pooing a lot, why?"




"How do you know that cow is having a baby?"


Well, Beren alredy knew what a dairy cow was and how milk came out of the udder. I then took him up to the new shed to show him TMR, discussed the pros and cons of sand cubicles and asked his opinion on BCS consistency. I think I learnt quite a lot!

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Radio Ga Ga

It was cold & windy, but not raining, which made us feel like fraudsters given that we were assembled to discuss, albeit briefly, the flooding of the Somerset Levels. The reporter, slick and doing ‘just another day at the office’, the Royal Marine Commando Major, very articulate & matter of fact, and Sally imparting her knowledge & thoughts of what will be the knock on effect of this awful start to 2014. 



Probably not the best circumstances in which to be interviewed on the radio but worth it if it raises awareness of the plight of some of our local farmers

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BVD Meeting 3 February 2014

We had a good turnout for our meeting on BVD control and eradication on Monday 3 Febraury; thanks to all those who turned out on a pretty miserable night. The take home messages were:


  • You can’t recognise a BVD persistently infected animal by just looking at it. So you can easily buy in either a persistently infected animal or a cow/heifer carrying a persistently infected calf.
  • If you vaccinate, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are protected from infection causing problems in the herd, especially if your vaccination protocol isn’t water tight.
  • The best way to know your herd’s BVD status is to take bloods from a representative group of youngstock between 9 months old and vaccination age
  • If you successfully eradicate BVD from your herd, this doesn’t mean that vaccination should be stopped because you are still at risk from outside infection.
  • Eradicating BVD on a national level is certainly possible; it has been done successfully in other European countries. This is the direction in which the UK is now heading.


We hope you enjoyed the roast dinner served afterwards by Lethbridge Arms at Bishops Lydeard and thanks to “The National BVD Control Programme” for their sponsorship of this event.

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Vitfoss Denmark Study Tour

Last week, I was fortunate to be invited by Harpers Home Mix to accompany a group of South West Dairy Farmers to Denmark  courtesey of Vitfoss to look around some farms. The trip was excellent; excellent farms, excellent company; excellent organisation; excellent food (and drink!)


We packed in 4 farms to our first of 2 full days in Denmark. If you want to see lots of photos along with commentary and stories behind each of these extraordinary businesses, have a look at our Photo Gallery (Sally's visit to Denmark).

After a very enjoyable and social evening following a packed day, we were taken, the next day, to the Vitforss headquarters where we were shown around the factory. In the aftrernoon we were shown the sister company factory JF Stoll, where I learnt an immense amount about feeder wagons!

It was a great group of farmers so thanks to them for being patient with my non-farmerness! Also, huge thanks to John Fish, Becky Anstiss, Per Thielgaard and our main host Knud Lykke Christensen of Vitfoss, aswell as Glen and Bruce from Harpers Homemix. It was a fantastic trip!

Remember to have a peek at the photos!




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