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Ten-minute chat
  1. Martin Smith

Abstract

Martin Smith is veterinary team manager for BPEX, which represents pig levy payers in England.

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What does your job involve?

My job has a wide remit; it involves taking the lead on the veterinary health and welfare areas of the BPEX technical team. Key areas we are looking at are emerging and exotic diseases, such as the new virulent strain of porcine epidemic diarrhoea seen currently in the USA and Canada. I am also involved in projects monitoring outcome-based measures of pig welfare and the responsible use of medicines on farm.

What did you do previously?

I started work in a traditional mixed practice in Leicestershire with a 50:50 large to small animal workload. I then specialised in large animal practice with farm animal monogastrics being of particular interest. This led to me taking a position at the Royal Veterinary College as an assistant lecturer and module writer for the postgraduate online distance learning course in intensive livestock health and production. I also helped to develop course material, which included the latest industry thinking. The course was not only aimed at vets, but focused on bringing a more holistic approach to the pig and poultry sectors and it helped me to develop a more industry-wide understanding of the pig sector.

How did you get to do a veterinary degree?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Derbyshire where my family have been farming, in some form, for the past 300 years. My older brothers were always involved in the farm as I was growing up and I knew from a young age that I would not be running the farm when I was older. As time went on, I developed an interest in veterinary medicine and the concerns of the farming community, and I was determined to work in this community when I was older. At university I was in the first year of the RVC's pioneering veterinary science course and also managed to encompass the RVC's veterinary pathology course before taking veterinary medicine as a postgraduate. This could be viewed as taking the long route, but the skills I acquired from my initial research degree have stayed with me through my career and have made me inquisitive and analytical in my approach to problem solving.

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What do you like about your job?

The role is wide and varied, so I may be speaking at a conference one day, meeting to discuss policy on another day, or on a pig farm the next day. The different areas I cover means the job never becomes boring and there are always new things to work on.

What do you not like?

The remit of the job is wide, and, while this keeps the role interesting, it can also be demanding at times – when that happens, life can get a little hectic.

Why is your job important?

Because of the unique nature of the role. I am acting on behalf of the levy payers within the pig industry, so I have to represent their views to industry, academia and government. The only way that any changes can be made in the sector is when all parties involved work together and it is part of my role to help to facilitate that.

What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?

An understanding of the needs and wants of the producer and the industry has been of great help to me in this job; developing these skills through working in practice or within the sector is important. Having a good knowledge of animal health and welfare concerns is helpful too.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Alongside my veterinary interests I have been involved in rowing for many years, which is why the Olympic rower Katherine Grainger has been a great inspiration to me. She typifies someone who has continued to remain calm and focused in the face of many challenges and she is an exemplar of what can be achieved through persistence and hard work.

What was your proudest moment?

During my time at the RVC I was involved in creating a free online course for the general public, educating them on some of the key points of modern pork and egg production and their implications for the consumer. This project involved using some of the latest thinking in education and was a really challenging, but rewarding, project to be involved in.

If you weren't a vet, what might you do instead?

I would either have ended up as a research scientist, or followed my love of food to run an artisan food business.

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