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Long way from home . . . Dave Robertson was in Yorkshire for the international sheep vets' conference. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Sheep and beef research is earning accolades for a local vet practice.

The Veterinary Centre, which has premises in Oamaru, Waimate, Kurow, Omarama, Ranfurly, and Palmerston, sent six vets to present research projects to 250 delegates at the recent national vets’ sheep, beef and deer conference in Blenheim.

George Smith, who is in his first year as a practising vet after graduating from Massey University, won the prize for best practitioner paper. He delivered the results of a trial with Friesian bulls on fodder beet.

There was no published data on how bulls fared on the crop, so Mr Smith designed a trial on his family farm in Waikato.

“He’s a very organised and enthusiastic individual,” practice partner Dave Robertson said. “He’s made quite an impact in his first year.”

Bridget Roulston, in her second year as a vet, spoke on the practice’s ram health and husbandry study. She was involved with brucellosis testing and travelled around farms to collect data.

“She’s got a lot of energy,” Mr Robertson said. “As an employer, it’s great to have young ones keeping you enthused.”

Ranfurly vet Michael Lilley examined urea poisoning in ewes – another subject with scant published information. Mr Lilley, the 2012 Young Farmer of the Year, undertook his research while doing his vet work, running his own farm and raising a young family.

Vet Neil Sanderson presented the practice’s study on beef cow fertility, winning the award for best overall paper at the conference. Mr Robertson carried out the scanning for the study and Hamish Newton analysed the statistics.

The vets did their research outside regular duties, ensuring they gained animal ethics approval and statistical validation. The results were written up in a monthly “Ewes News” newsletter and discussed at annual sheep and beef roadshows.

Mr Robertson recently returned from presenting a paper on ram health at an international sheep vet conference in Harrogate, England, attended by about 700 delegates.

New Zealand had a “low disease status” and used fewer antibiotics than most other countries, he said. In Britain, 17% of all livestock production is lost to disease. The figure in the Third World is about 30%.

“We’ve set an example to other Western countries that are relying on subsidies and chemicals.”

There was an international focus on reducing the use of antimicrobial products to prevent resistance forming, Mr Robertson said.

“Ours is insignificant.”

New Zealand farmers had become better at feeding sheep, understanding breeding genetics, and using refugia and crops to minimise worm burdens.

Rams needed to be treated as priority stock units, he said. Worm control and feeding before and after mating was important, because rams were vulnerable through losing 10% to 20% of their bodyweight during mating.