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Vetting And The Bigger Picture

Kenny NuttingDr Kenny Nutting BVetMed MRCVS

‘What do I get up to as a game bird vet outside of the rearing season?’ I often hear people ask. Minus a bit of shooting, my focus turns to various projects that St David’s Game Bird Services is involved in, as we aim to contribute as much as possible to the shooting sector.

As a business we have grown and are now the largest game bird veterinary practice in the UK, taking into account both the number of dedicated vets and customers. The size of our practice allows us to offer a local and responsive service but we are also able to draw on the experiences of our veterinary colleagues around the country to collectively build the best and latest veterinary advice. This enables us to find novel techniques and treatments and share the knowledge from our entire vet team with our customers. Providing veterinary care to our clients is, and will always be, our main focus. Yet over the last 18 months, we have significantly increased our involvement in the industry and gained support with numerous stakeholder groups. This has meant engaging more directly with the forces that shape the future of our industry. 
The role of vets in our practice has changed significantly. In the past, we used to do many more reactive post-mortem examinations and follow-up medication. Our average client interaction now introduces us to numerous areas of the client’s supply chain from feed companies to equipment manufacturers. We hope that our position gives us exposure to understand the challenges and how they are being dealt with on the ground. This helps us to understand further the everyday concerns and create plans that are both practical and achievable. Why is this important? Ultimately, the health of the industry is just as important as the health of our business.
My colleague, Alan Beynon, was invited onto the British Game Alliance (BGA) Board of Directors last year. Alongside Alan, we hope to help guide the BGA’s aim to expand the game meat market by increasing demand and building a respected auditing process to reflect the high standards that can be achieved. To create a sustainable shooting sector, it is imperative that we achieve best practice, are audited by external bodies and continue developing a strong dead game market.   
Our involvement with the Game Farmers’ Association has been very positive. For instance, the antibiotic data collection has created initiatives to help forward our knowledge on best practice and methods for husbandry. This has led to, aside from client cases, investing our vets’ time into gamekeeper and farmer training and creating proactive flock management rather than a reactive disease response.
We are encouraging gamekeepers and farmers from neighbouring estates to work together to tackle key issues. The hot topic in recent years has been the heightened level of mycoplasma ‘bulgy eye’ and with this, St David’s founded the British Veterinary Poultry Association Mycoplasma Working Group which was delighted to receive NGO and GFA funding and support. From this, we have started to gather more detailed and specific science relating to game bird mycoplasma and how we may help reduce this challenge in the coming years. This knowledge has helped us to develop Mycoplasma Prevention Plans with clients.
Four years ago and with the help of ABN Feeds, we began an annual collective meeting of all vets who specialise in game bird species, to share knowledge and work together on various aspects for the benefit of the whole industry. Particular focus most recently has been antibiotic reduction and we are proud that for the 2018 season the industry as a whole reduced its antibiotic use in water by 10%St David’s antibiotic use reduction was higher with a recorded 29% reduction. Further to this, the 2019 Joint Commission on Antibiotic Reduction is reporting that antibiotic use in gamebirds is down overall by 51% (you can read more about that below), this is excellent and reflects the incredible response from farmers and keepers continuing to engage with the new management methods and products. This shows that hard work pays off, thank you!
We have recently completed our last client event in this year’s roadshow around the UK Our meetings attract over 600 attendees from various walks within the industry, alongside all of the major shooting alliances and associations. The aim of these events is for knowledge transfer, discussions on key issues affecting keepers and farmers locally, as well as the wider issues shaping the industry. We also offer updates on the latest veterinary advice for the upcoming season. It was great to see so many of you there and we hope you found it a valuable evening. We have already started to discuss next year’s events and welcome any feedback you have so we can keep building on these meetings year on year. 
As I have mentioned, my role as a vet incorporates all aspects of the birds’ management rather than traditionally just vetting for disease. This reflects how all areas of the industry need to work together to tackle challenges and it relies on the continued support of clients and their understanding that we are hopefully assisting the industry as a whole. Personal passion for the game industry is a key driver for myself as well as many of my colleagues and it is this investment that keeps me focused on the job that I love.
We wish you all the success in preparing for the coming season.