Dedicated shepherd wins vets’ Farmer of the Year award

Nick Emmett, of Whitehouse Farm in Oxborough, with his sheep. Pic: MATTHEW USHER

Nick Emmett, of Whitehouse Farm in Oxborough, with his sheep. Pic: MATTHEW USHER - Credit: Matthew Usher

A sheep farmer's persistence in identifying and treating a health problem in his flock has won him a Farmer of the Year title from a Norfolk veterinary practice.

Nick Emmett of Whitehouse Farm at Oxborough, near Swaffham, was handed the award by Westpoint Farm Vets in King's Lynn.

He called for the help of vet Molly McKay after noticing his ewes were losing weight and vulnerable to disease and infections.

After weeks of blood tests and analysis, the problem was diagnosed as a deficiency in trace elements which were vital to the animals' health.

'The sheep were just not thriving and we couldn't put our finger on why,' he said. 'After a little while the tests came back showing very low in cobalt and selenium, which are strongly linked to their defence against infections.

'It is not what I expected, which is why it took us a long time to diagnose it. We traced it back to fields that they had been grazing on another farm.

'We had to work out a way to treat it. We gave them a bolus, which is like a huge tablet that sits in their gut and slowly releases the cobalt, selenium and iodine. Having treated them I have noticed a difference in the condition of the sheep. They are looking better in the eye and the fleeces have improved, and they have started to put on weight again.'

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Mr Emmett now hopes other farmers will be encouraged to invest more in veterinary treatment if their animals display similar symptoms.

'What surprised the vets was that I was prepared to spend time and money on sheep,' he said. 'If you have cattle that are losing weight you would naturally call a vet, because they are worth much more money, whereas sheep farmers can be reluctant to spend any money with vets to get to the bottom of a problem.

'I hated to see the sheep suffering and I could see I was losing money through them losing weight and getting sick, so I was determined to treat them.

'It has not been a good year for sheep and cattle farmers. Prices are 30-40pc down on last year, so nobody needs the extra cost, but if your stock is losing weight and picking up infections, then this may be worth looking into.'

A Westpoint Farm Vets spokesman said: 'Nick was recognised for his determination to improve the health of his flock by investigating a present problem, not only for the short term gains, but to ensure that prevention is in place to negate future issues. Nick's ethos of working with his vet team, through phone calls and visits for advice and progress reports, has created a trusted relationship which has benefits to both sides, vet and farmer, beyond the health of the individual animal.'