The challenges faced by UK livestock farmers in the 21st
century led to the formation of a new company in June 2005 – XLVets – thought
to be unique worldwide in its mandate to get its countrywide
group of farm animal committed veterinary practices working
together alongside commercial research and manufacturing companies
to share best practice.
Vets have talked for years about working together
and sharing ideas and skills – a route which XLVets’ managing
director David Black had always wanted to pursue.
However, the catalyst came after the publication of the Department
of Trade and Industry consultation and the Competition Commission’s
report prescription-only veterinary medicines.
“Agriculture in the UK is under the hammer and this
is about standing up and being counted,” said David
Black, who is also managing director of the Paragon Group
of veterinary centres based at Dalston, near Carlisle, in
“We’re trying to change the way the farmer sees
us. We want to offer best knowledge to our farmers, share
skills and be the focus for the whole health package as a
partner. It’s a question of investing in health not
paying for disease.
“It’s obviously in our best interests because
I want to be doing farm work for the next 20 years and I won’t
be if there are no farmers left.”
The new umbrella company comprises a core group of up to
30 practices, ranging in size and varying from two farm vets
to the biggest with 42 vets of mixed disciplines. Each practice
is a shareholder of the private limited company, based in
Scotland, run by a board of eight, and each vet practice pays
The initiative is about trying to help farmers in a cost
effective way by offering preventative knowledge and “best
practice” information as well as supplying medicines
at competitive prices because of the new company’s coordinated
“We have achieved new economies by getting together.
By working with other practices we can be more open and honest
and share skills. It’s something farmers should do instead
of feeling they are competing with each other,” said
David Black, whose practice has 22 vets.
“Farmers see us as being experts in disease rather
than being experts in animal health. We would much rather
supply a preventative vaccine for £2 than a tray of
antibiotics. There is still a lot of slack in the system in
farming and a lot of margin for improving efficiency.”
XLVets has already greatly increased sales among its practices
of preventative medicines, resulting, hopefully, in a reduction
of antibiotics and other “fire-brigade” medicines
Through the expertise of a Northumberland member of the group
who deals with a large number of sheep farming clients, better
marketing of ewe abortion vaccine has led to a sales growth
of 33 per cent among the practices – benefiting both
the farmer and the sheep.
Similarly, 40 per cent more calf pneumonia vaccine has been
sold through member practices. Other animal health campaigns
are planned to give a widespread impact on disease messages
Historically, the profession has subsidised its fees by the
sale of medicines, says David Black, but members of the group
are now able to charge a realistic fee for their consultancy
and advice as well as supplying the medicines as cost effectively
While the farmer’s vet bill might not reduce, his efficiency
and hence profitability will inevitablyincrease.
XLVets wants to create a national footprint although optimum
membership is probably around 40 practices.
Already its practices are as far-flung as Lanark in the Scottish
Borders to Crewkerne in England’s south west and they
include some of the key veterinary businesses in the UK.
“It’s about attitude and forward thinking. All
of our practices are committed to British agriculture and
the future of UK farming,” said David Black.
While agriculture is the first model, equine vets impressed
with the operation of the new company are already hoping it
can be rolled out to their own specialism.
Visit the website: www.xlvets.co.uk
© Copyright 2006 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights
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