Pig farming

Pig Vet Spotlight: Young Pig Vet of the Year Louise Blenkhorn

As far back as I can remember, it was always my dream to be a vet, and I was always wanting to help improve animal health and welfare. My grandad and my father were pig farmers in Northern Ireland, so it’s what I know, love and have a real passion for. And because pig health and management are so closely interconnected, the sector suits my practical and hands-on approach.

I spent much of my childhood helping my father on the farm before I left for university, and it’s with thanks to him that I have such a high degree of practical knowledge of managing and running pig units.

After qualifying from The Royal (Dick) Vet School in Edinburgh in 2010, I moved to Yorkshire and went into mixed practice. I gradually took on more and more of the pig work, and after two years I moved to the Garth Pig Practice where I worked for almost seven years before becoming an independent pig consultant in November 2018 – the same month I was named Young Pig Vet of the Year.

I offer all aspects of pig work, including routine Red Tractor assurance visits; one-off or regular consultancy visits to troubleshoot problem areas; classroom-based or on-farm training on all aspects of pig production and management; disease investigation and health monitoring; and one-off or periodic herd health and management reviews.

My particular passion is fertility reviews aimed at optimising breeding herd performance and productivity – essentially working on business profitability. Given my background in pig farming, I find that my hands-on, practical approach is welcomed and very successful. The best thing about the work is definitely the clients. They’re hard-working, dedicated and passionate about what they do, and it’s an honour to work alongside them.

There are always challenges facing our sector and we currently have endemic disease such as PRRS, the threat of African swine fever (ASF), the drive to reduce antimicrobial use and the phasing out of zinc use by 2022 to deal with – not to mention Covid-19 and Brexit. However, I know our industry is up to the challenge; we won’t become complacent, but will be proactive and progress.

I was delighted and very humbled to be nominated for the Young Pig Vet of the Year category at the National Pig Awards. It was my first ever visit to London, and my husband, Neil, and I got to enjoy the London’s many sites, galleries and museums.

The night of the awards was fantastic, and I very much enjoyed having a glass of wine and chatting with so many familiar faces, although most didn’t recognise me in a dress! During the presentations, it was amazing to hear about the hard work and dedication of the stockmen/women and others involved in the pig sector. It made me feel very proud to be part of this great industry.

When my name was called, I was absolutely ecstatic to win, especially given the talents of the other two nominees. And I was even happier that I was still categorised as a “young” vet!

Aside from pigs, the other loves in my life are my husband and my two daughters, Emma, who’s four, and Ava, who’s three. We farm 88 acres that includes breeding pedigree Limousin cattle. A day in the life of a pig vet, mother of two and a farmer’s wife is nothing less than crazy – but in a good way, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

For further information please contact please contact Zoetis UK Limited, First Floor, Birchwood Building, Springfield Drive, Leatherhead KT22 7LP. www.zoetis.co.uk. Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: February 2020. MM-08441