Veterinary scene down under: Shedding light on why the veterinary profession matters, and more news

dvm360dvm360 April 2024
Volume 55
Issue 4
Pages: 52

Updates on the dairy veterinarian running a consultancy supporting farmers with business leadership, governance, and human resource management advice; and the veterinarian shining a light on why the veterinary profession matters.

Mark Humphris, BSc, BVMS (Hons), MANZCVS (Dairy), Dip HRM (Dairy), MBA, (right) (Image courtesy of The Milk Road)

Mark Humphris, BSc, BVMS (Hons), MANZCVS (Dairy), Dip HRM (Dairy), MBA, (right) (Image courtesy of The Milk Road)

Veterinarian creating partnerships with farm teams

Creating partnerships with on-farm teams to work through problems together is the ethos driving Mark Humphris, BSc, BVMS (Hons), MANZCVS (Dairy), Dip HRM (Dairy), MBA. Humphris is the director of The Milk Road consultancy in which he focuses on positively influencing change on farms – to aid both animal health and business development.

“As a veterinarian working in complex farming businesses, I think as [veterinarians] we need to understand that we have a lot of knowledge in a very small component of the overall farm business and in that realisation, we cannot be prescriptive in our advice. We should always strive to create partnerships where you work through problems together with the on-farm team who have a much better appreciation of the constraints, challenges and opportunities in their own business,” explained Humphris to dvm360.

“It is human nature to struggle on and not ask for help straight away but I think we could do better as veterinarians to start with empathy rather than with advice. This allows producers to have the space for their own humility and growth, and then to integrate ideas from vets and other trusted stakeholders in the business.”

Humphris speaking to a crowd.

Humphris speaking to a crowd.

Humphris sees his focus being on farming rather than the veterinary profession, but is open-minded to the diverse opportunities where his expertise can bring value to a business or organization.

“Being of value requires you to understand some of the history, the current capabilities and constraints that are on the business. My consultancies are quite diverse but often they start with an animal herd health problem and then morph into other work where we have an identified business need or bottlenecks that are hampering efforts to grow or be more productive,” said Humphris.

“Some examples of bottlenecks can be anything from leadership, poor governance, culture, poor financial literacy, or other seemingly unrelated health problems. I also do a fair bit of teaching and customized training programs for both industry and larger farms – and have enjoyed working in China, the United States, New Zealand and India too.”

Humphris graduated from Murdoch University in Perth in 1999 and initially worked in a mixed-animal and dairy veterinary position in Korumburra in the state of Victoria. Here, Humphris received guidance from the likes of dairy-industry greats like the late Jakob Malmo, AO, BVSc, FACVSc, DVSc.

“I was very grateful for the mentoring and opportunities I received at this practice. I then spent three years working in Scotland, England, and Wales and traveling to over 40 countries. At a conference in Quebec I was offered a Residency at the University of Melbourne based in Maffra, east of Melbourne. At this practice I trained over 100 [veterinary] students in dairy medicine per year,” shared Humphris.

“I then sold my share in the practice and developed my own consulting business. I have been very fortunate to be able to pursue more learning – I have studied human resource management, motivational interviewing, negotiation, a business degree, dairy sustainability, and self-determination theory to enhance my service offering to farmers.”

Currently undertaking further study into farm succession planning, Humphris is also keen to be able to support regional farmers with this challenging area of business transition – which will add yet another aspect to the many farm problems he can assist with.

“I love the complexity of some problems which incorporate a diverse group of people, animal, pathogen, and environment factors. Despite enjoying clinical work, I have always been even more motivated to prevent disease than deal with its consequences. And I also wanted to be free of the burden of selling medications. Unfortunately we have seen the commoditization of prescription medications in the rural veterinary setting,” said Humphris.

“My priority is to build strong trusting partnerships with farmers, and I have a strong commitment to being independent when it comes to my advice, and not selling any products. I am motivated to support farmers to be confident, capable, and discerning consumers to make better decisions about the vast number of products available on the market.”

Always keen to extend his learning, Humphris will travel to the United States in late March to visit several large dairy farms during the challenging spring calving period.

“I’m keen to glean more on their approaches to milk quality, efficiencies with large calf ranches and nurturing good culture in high performing teams,” said Humphris.

Humphris is also co-convenor of the Cattle Chapter Program at the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists annual Science Week conference.

“Having also studied Self Determination Theory, I’m excited to reflect on how the theory has helped me professionally and personally and present this at Science Week in July this year,” said Humphris.

Exploring why the veterinary profession matters

Earlier this year Bronwyn Orr, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MANZCVS, GAICD, started writing and distributing a compelling veterinary blog, Vet Matters, as part of her mission to shine a light on why the veterinary profession matters by raising awareness of the issues and challenges facing the sector.

“I started Vet Matters as a way of, firstly, raising awareness of some of the issues facing the profession and all of the incredible advocacy efforts that are occurring behind the scenes, and secondly, to provide a space for the profession to discuss non-clinical matters,” explained Orr to dvm360.

Bronwyn Orr, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MANZCVS, GAICD (image courtesy of the Australian Veterinary Association)

Bronwyn Orr, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MANZCVS, GAICD (image courtesy of the Australian Veterinary Association)

“I love engaging with readers on these topics. The title is a bit of a play on words - I discuss veterinary matters, but also, I wanted to reinforce that the veterinary profession matters. I've been blown away by how supportive the industry has been so far. It's enabled conversations to occur on much deeper levels, and has brought many issues to the forefront.”

Orr is a recent past-President of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), and is currently the senior manager of government relations for the AVA, along with being a business owner running an after-hours veterinary clinic in Canberra.

“I truly believe that if we talk more about what matters to the profession, we can influence the shape of the profession to come. I'm unapologetically one of the profession's biggest fans - so writing about what matters to it is a blast for me,” said Orr.

This passion for influencing positive change in the veterinary profession has also seen Orr receive a prestigious Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Trust. The Fellowship provides the opportunity for recipients to travel overseas for 4-8 weeks to learn more about a topic or issue that they are passionate about.

“My Churchill Fellowship can essentially be summed up as, 'How do we get vets where they need to be?’ I will be looking at training, recruitment and retention policies and programs employed by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, and seeing what has worked, and what hasn't,” said Orr.

“Veterinary workforce planning is an international challenge, and the aim is to write my findings into a White Paper to be released in early 2025,” she concluded.

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