Peter Clark was formerly livestock vet at the Royal Bath and West Show; despite being retired he remains keenly interested in the event.
- British Veterinary Association
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When and how did you first become involved with the show?
I did my first duty at the show 32 years ago. At that time, veterinary duties were covered by local practices and my boss invited me to undertake our shift. I enjoyed it so much that I volunteered to do the duty in subsequent years. Many years later when the Show Society appointed a permanent veterinary team, I was invited to be one of two livestock vets.
What made you want to continue?
The enthusiasm and dedication of the exhibitors; I was fascinated by the lengths they would go to prepare their animals to look their best. I was in awe at the standard of livestock at the show.
How big is the veterinary team and how many animals are they responsible for?
There are two livestock vets and two horse vets. Increasing specialisation means that the two sections are run independently. Livestock vets are responsible for about 2000 head of farm stock, plus goats, chickens, alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small creatures that all help to make the show so special to so many people.
What do the vets do?
Livestock vets inspect all farm animals as they enter the showground, checking that they are in good health and free from any sign of disease or injury. Additionally, a livestock vet is available 24 hours a day to deal with any illness or accidents that may occur on site. Biosecurity is important and a high standard of cleanliness must be maintained throughout the showground; there is a lorry wash on site to ensure cleanliness of vehicles. Correctly diluted disinfectant is dispensed to a number of strategically placed preselected points around the livestock area. Zoonoses are of major concern, particularly following the outbreak of serious illness in children (attributed to Escherichia coli O157) who had visited a farm in 2008. It is up to everybody involved with livestock to make the public aware of the need to wash their hands after handling animals.
In recent years, the welfare of animals being shown has come under increasing public scrutiny, particularly following alleged malpractices to enhance the appearance of udders in dairy cows. Livestock vets at the Royal Bath and West Show have been at the forefront of dealing with this.
Are you aware of the new ASAO guidance for livestock show organisers that was prepared in association with the BVA?
I am well aware of it because much of the work done in compiling it was done by the team here at the Royal Bath and West. It is a very comprehensive document. Agricultural shows have an obligation to ensure best welfare practices are observed and, just as with health and safety regulations, need to demonstrate by means of a written plan that all eventualities have been considered.
What aspect of your involvement have you found the most rewarding?
Without a doubt, being part of a large, friendly team. I have enjoyed the company of professional colleagues; we are only a small part of a large number of people that make the show what it is. The livestock stewards and the exhibitors are generally the friendliest and most rewarding bunch of people anybody could wish to work with.
Do you have any particular proud memories?
The Royal Bath and West Show is the country's premier livestock event. The Royal Bath and West Agricultural Society is the oldest in the country and possibly in the world. It was a great honour to be offered the opportunity to be a livestock vet at the show. The year I was asked to be part of the judging team for the Royal Bath and West South West Dairy Farmer of the Year competition, I felt very proud for myself and my profession to have an input into such a prestigious event.
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