By Rosie Breakwell • Published on 15th January, 2024
The competition, open to all UK final year vet students, last year attracted a good number of applications from five of the UK vet schools. With only a minority of students entering farm practice, the competition has been set up to encourage those planning on a future in agriculture. Entering the competition is easy, making use of an existing piece of course work and then applicants succinctly explaining their thoughts on the role of a farm vet of the future. Entries for the 2024 competition are now open and further details can be found on the Royal Bath and West Society website. The 177 year old Royal Bath and West Society, an Agricultural Charity with a remit to award grants and scholarships for the promotion of agriculture and rural crafts, coordinates entries with the competition receiving generous financial support from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.
The Peter Clark award for 2023 went to Nottingham University vet student Heather Hemingway-Arnold. Heather impressed the judges with her Masters dissertation on investigating the use of technology and production data to predict lameness in dairy cows. Heather demonstrated a good understanding of the data and its interpretation, recognising both opportunity and flaws from its use. She had the presence of mind to present key findings to the judges showing both great insight and self-assurance in her presentation. Heather showed she has a good grasp on the future role of farm vets; supporting high UK animal welfare, providing training to farmers and practising evidence-based veterinary medicine. She also explained the importance of working within a vet-led team to improve animal health and the efficiency and sustainability of production.
On winning the award Miss Hemingway-Arnold said that what was most important to her was to be a true champion of agriculture. “I’m thrilled to have won the award – it’s a shock, I didn’t expect to win,” she added. “For me the farm vet of the future encompasses practising veterinary medicine and using progressive research and technology in the best possible way to support the growth and sustainability of livestock production. And being active in the support of education, mental health and community.”
Runner-up was Aidan Coe, a student at the Royal Veterinary College, who mapped out the future of the farm vet as a custodian of the farming industry. Aidan showed consideration to how farm vets can actively promote agriculture’s place in modern culture. He also showed great ingenuity in his work using infrared camera technology to identify lameness location in cows, and determination to take his research forward. On receiving his award Mr Coe also expressed a keenness to promote more activity in education around agriculture. “I am very happy to receive the accolade – it’s great to receive the recognition,” he said. “I feel very strongly about education; a lot of the problems the sector faces with perception comes from a gap in public education. I want to be more involved in making change and I believe this award will help me in my endeavours.”
The winners received their awards from Lady Radnor at the opening day of the Royal Bath and West Show. This comprised of a trophy and a cash prize for both Heather and Aidan. The winner received the Peter Clark Award, along with a cheque for £1000 from sponsors Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. Peter Clark was livestock vet to the show, and a great friend to the Royal Bath and West. He was a vet, who always had time for his colleagues; hungry to learn and generous in sharing his knowledge. Peter’s career was cut short by illness and he passed away in 2022. Having founded the original competition it is entirely fitting that the award bears his name.