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Did you know that Torch Farm Vets is one of very few remaining practices in this area that is owned by the vets who run it?

The UK veterinary profession is undergoing a profound change at the moment, largely under the radar of the general public. Here at Torch, we work hard to offer a dedicated caring service to all our clients. So it is with interest that we watch parts of the veterinary industry change in a way that makes some practices progressively less in touch with the communities they serve.

Torch Farm Director Mike Blake has worked in the area for 17 years. Here he answers a few burning questions on what exactly is happening, and what the future looks like at Torch.

What’s going on?

As a nation of renowned animal lovers, it will come as no surprise that we have one of the best developed veterinary services in the world. In recent years, the investment potential of this market has been identified by large corporate organisations. They entered the industry and began buying up practices from vet-owners who would have traditionally been succeeded upon retirement by the talented younger vets coming through the practice. Corporate buy-outs have accelerated dramatically in the last five years, and it’s predicted that by 2022 up to 70% of British practices could be under corporate ownership.

Practices frequently retain their original names and premises, so clients may well be unaware that the owners are no longer the vets working there.

Is this important to clients of a practice, and their animals?

I think if you own your own business you are more likely to go the extra mile when called on?

I believe that clients and their animals under veterinary care will be better served where owners work within the practice. Many clients really value the knowledge

that if there is a problem, they are able to speak to an owner personally. Independent ownership offers vets the freedom to provide the treatments that are the best and most economic for individual clients and their stock, without the pressure of satisfying a host of shareholders who may not even reside in the country.

We all know the positive impact of ‘shopping local’, especially in rural areas. Profits made within vet-owned practice are re-invested by upgrading facilities and training staff to improve the service and care offered to clients. On the other hand, corporations and large investment funds exist to make money and distribute profits to their shareholders, making it inevitable then that significant portions of any profit made will leave the practice and the local area.

So what’s happening to Torch Farm Vets?

The Torch team are proud of the practice that we have developed since 2012 which has been built on the strengths of the three founding practices. Some of my partners have worked within these practices for more than 25 years. We have worked hard to develop our services whilst maintaining a strong relationship between our vets, support team and clients. We feel the size of our business and our independence allows us to treat the needs of the stock under our care whilst working in close partnership with owners towards their goals. Our aim over time is to allow vets working at Torch to continue owning Torch. We do not want to pass it on to an anonymous organisation.

As directors we all live, work, raise families and keep animals ourselves in the local area. We are close to the community, and aware of the challenges and opportunities faced by the farming industry in the south-west, which means we are more able to adapt, help and support where needed.

We are constantly looking at how we can improve things for our clients and in response to feedback, are now offering a weekly collection service at Holsworthy Livestock Market from our new kiosk. We will be there in person every Wednesday and hope to extend this service further in the near future. Watch this space for updates and be sure to come and say hello!


Torch clients Bryan and Liz Griffiths are opening up their farm gates to welcome the NSA Sheep South West event this month.

Liz and Bryan, who is the first serving NSA Chairman to host the event on his own farm, look forward to welcoming visitors and showcasing the 900-ewe flock of commercial Mules and Suffolk Mules, in addition to beef cattle, run over their 300 acres.

Liz explains: “Our simple production system has allowed us to produce a consistent supply of supermarket specification lambs throughout our 35 years farming at Southcott. We hope this system will be of interest to visitors and our farm a perfect site for the wider NSA team to join us to host this leading event.”

Visitors to this event will be able to enjoy a tour of Bryan and Liz’s farm in addition to a host of seminars, demonstrations, and tradestands.

The wider Torch Farm Vets team will be in attendance this year, in addition to South West Sheep Breeding Services, who will be in a celebratory mood thanks to 2019 being their 30th anniversary year! Not only will Mike, Guto and the team be found enjoying a bite of birthday cake (or two), they will be involved in two seminars during the course of the day.

The first seminar, in conjunction with the Griffiths, entitled ‘Reducing antibiotic use without compromising animal welfare and performance’,addressesexactlythat.Bryan and Liz have done a number of things on

their own farm in recent years which have contributed to a reduction in prophylactic use and are keen to share their experiences in a workshop format.

The South West Initiative in Sheep Health are running the second seminar, entitled ‘Farmers and vets working together in the south-west’. SWISH’s focus will be on vets working closely with sheep farmers to promote active health planning and together improve health, welfare and performance of sheep flocks in the south- west.

Please do come along to our stand to say hello and enjoy a slice of SWSBS birthday cake – we look forward to seeing you there.

•Tuesday 18 June at Southcott Burrington Umberleigh EX37 9LF


The drizzle did not dampen the Torch team’s spirits on Wednesday 29 May as we opened the doors to our new kiosk at Holsworthy Market.

It was great to catch up with a few clients and spread the word about our new drug collection service.

Drugs ordered by 2pm on the Tuesday prior can now be collected on Wednesday mornings from our kiosk at the market.

Please call your usual surgery to place an order.


Many of you will remember Hannah Schubert, who worked for the practice for 6.5 years until 2016. Hannah missed clinical practice so is back working for us on Wednesdays alongside her other role at Bristol University, and is very much looking forward to working with some of you again.


TB is a devastating disease for the UK cattle industry, affecting livelihoods, animal health and welfare, herd genetics and farmer well being.

Come along to the inaugural TBAS conference to learn more about what can be done to reduce the risk and impact of TB on your farm.

• Wednesday 26 June 2019, 09:00-16:30 • Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester GL7 6JS
For more information visit www tbas.org.uk


If you happen to be showing at or visiting any of the local agricultural shows this summer, please pop in and say hi, it would be great to see you!

• Woolsery Show on Monday 29 July
• North Devon Show on Weds 7 August
• Holsworthy Show on Thursday 22 August


Congratulations to the Knapman family at Shilstone Farm for winning Best Dairy Farmer at the 2019 Devon Farm Business Awards. Very well deserved!