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Group aims to dispel farm vet myths

Written by: Vet Times Jobs
Published on: 28 Nov 2023

If Mia Ellis (pictured) had followed in her family’s footsteps, she may have been treading the boards in the West End, appearing in Strictly Come Dancing or a star of stage and screen.

Mia EllisMia was the first member of her family to go to university and broke with tradition in choosing life as a farm vet over show business.

Her mum, Sara, is a make-up artist who has worked on feature films and on the BBC; her dad, Kim, was a cameraman on the Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes films; while her sister, Esme, is carving a successful career as an actress.

Her grandparents, Dorothy and Charles, were ballroom dancers, waltzing to success in competitions all over the country.

Yet, Mia chose a life in waterproofs and wellies rather than sequins and tassels after following her childhood dream of becoming a vet.

After helping out with lambing on a farm when she was a teenager, where a welcoming shepherd showed her the ropes, she set her heart on becoming a farm vet, even though she had no connection to farming or rural life.

She now works as a farm vet and lives on a beef farm with her husband and their herd of shorthorns and red polls.

Mia said: “I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, and when I went to do a placement on a farm to help with lambing when I was 13, I felt completely at home.

“I knew nothing about farming life, but I have developed an incredibly rewarding career that has completely lived up to my expectations.”

Mia studied at the RVC in London, which included an intercalated degree year where she did molecular medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, before graduating in 2019 and joining Westpoint.

‘That’s when my love of working in dairy started. The cattle are such peaceful animals. I just love cows.’

During her preclinical year placements, she had to go milking and spent two weeks with a dairy farming family in Kent.

Mia said: “It was my first time on this sort of unit and they were so happy to teach me about everything.

“That’s when my love of working in dairy started. The cattle are such peaceful animals. I just love cows, it’s undeniable.” For the past year, Mia has been studying for a Master’s in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, as well as a Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP) in cattle at the University of Liverpool and a Certificate in A Veterinary Approach to Sustainable Food and Farming with Vet Salus and Vet Sustain. VetPartners funded her CertAVP, and flexible working opportunities have allowed her to go part-time so she can juggle her role and her studies.

Sustainable farming

Mia’s interest in sustainable farming came after she noticed changes in the types of contracts farmers were on, and wanted to learn more about how you can gain an extra pence per litre for engaging with certain environmental factors.

She was encouraged to speak to VetPartners’ sustainability special interest group, where it was suggested that she should attend the Groundswell event – the first step towards learning about regenerative farming.

Mia said: “I know it’s one of many directions this industry can go in and I am really interested in it personally, but also because it benefits my clients in a number of ways. Who doesn’t want to save costs and have more disease-free cows? There are things that each side is going to be interested in for both the farmer and vet.

“The role of a vet has changed over the years and sustainability is one of the key areas we are being asked to advise on.

“Farmers are interested in reducing chemical usage, trying to increase the longevity of animals and trying to incorporate more biodiversity on the farm.

“It is a direct way to help the environment and have active change, rather than waiting for the Government to make big changes.”

VetPartners is breaking the stereotypes of the farm vet sector, which is traditionally male, and helping to create a more diverse and inclusive profession, where women or those who are not from a farming background can thrive.

It is the richness of farming life, the influential role farm vets play in the food chain, as well as the variety of the demands that make Mia love her job – a role to which she may not have been born into, but which has now become her life.

“Farming is such a welcoming and progressive community, and people are always happy to help,” she said.

“It is exciting and rewarding, and you don’t have to come from a traditional farming background to succeed.”