Vets Claire Whittle and Rob Howe have been awarded 2021 Nuffield scholarships to support their research into regenerative agriculture and how it can work in conjunction with supporting livestock health and farm productivity.

Both Claire and Rob are based at LLM Farm Vets in Cheshire and Lancashire, which is part of the VetPartners group.

While they have already been working with their farm clients to explore how sustainable farming methods relate to livestock health, for example as part of a fully integrated parasite control strategy, the scholarship opportunities will increase the vets’ ability to provide further qualitative guidance to pass on farmers.

Claire’s research will ask whether regenerative agriculture principles improve the health and welfare of livestock, and if so, to what extent.

“I’m thrilled to be awarded the scholarship, as it gives scope to build on the work we’re already doing at LLM to join the dots between improving soil health and biodiversity, and the impacts on farm animal health,” she said.

Rob, who will be exploring and defining the role of the farm vet within regenerative agriculture, said:

It’s a really exciting time to have been awarded this opportunity, as globally there’s growing interest in how farming can have a positive impact on the health of people, livestock, wildlife, biodiversity and climate change.

Use of the dung beetle

The scholarship will enable and extend a specific area of his research which has been focussed on vets making use of the humble dung beetle to open the door to mindset shifts on how to approach parasite control and harness the power of on-farm ecology.

Dung beetles generate £367 million of value each year to UK cattle farms, which is often unrecognised.

“The role of farm vets has been very dynamic over the past couple of decades, shifting steadily to prevention,” Rob said.

We’re now entering into an era where sustainability and environmental considerations, which directly influence animal health, must become central to our day to day.

“With ELMs approaching, this will only become more important for us and our clients. I’m very much looking forward to exploring this field further and using the findings to develop the services offered in our practices and the wider industry.”