I am Owen Atkinson, a vet who has experience of the dairy industry worldwide, but especially the UK.
Clients tell me that what makes me stand out is my enthusiasm and depth of knowledge of the dairy cow, coupled with a talent for communicating complex subjects in an accessible way. Read on if you want to learn more about how I arrived where I am.
My story so far
I grew up surrounded by animals on a mixed farm near Derby. We always had a house cow; that makes me sound old! Who keeps a house cow these days? The one which I remember best through my formative years was a Jersey called Buttercup. Don’t broadcast it, but I still have a soft spot for Jerseys!
So becoming a vet was probably quite a natural progression. I qualified from Liverpool in 1994. I worked in farm practice for many years, first in North Yorkshire, then Wrexham, and coming to rest at LLM Farm vets, in Cheshire, where I became a partner for ten years. I left regular practice to begin Dairy Veterinary Consultancy Ltd. in 2013. I’m still based in Cheshire, but work throughout the UK, and excitingly for me, sometimes overseas too.
Through Dairy Veterinary Consultancy I provide strategic health advice and tailor-made training to ruminant and dairy agri-businesses. Starting the business was very much an evolution of where my interests were taking me, and I wanted to set my stall out in a completely different way to being a clinical vet. I felt that a clean break from practice was the best way for me to do that at the time. I had already become a CowSignals® Master and I undertook a Nuffield Travel Scholarship in 2010, looking at the role farm vets have in knowledge transfer. I guess these were both important parts of my journey.
My special thing is creating or developing herd health programmes. Examples that I’m proud to have been involved with include the AHDB Healthy Feet Programme, Elanco’s Healthy Start Checklist, MSD’s Calf Health Checklist, the AHDB InCalf guide and MilkSure. For each of them, easily as much care and effort has gone into the “process” as into the content…what I mean by that is how the message is conveyed, as well as the message itself.
Since starting DVC, my work and my skillset have both continued to evolve. In particular, I have developed my expertise in coaching and facilitation, undertaking post-graduate courses through Aberystwyth University. Probably, I now work more with people and teams than I do with cows.
I’m still pretty rooted in the veterinary and animal health side of things though. I’m a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production and I hold an RCVS Diploma too. I do second opinion work for vet practices on a variety of dairy-farm issues, from rumen health investigations, to lameness workups and training, to advising on new-builds and housing modifications. I am also on farm regularly for SDDG and Arla-360 External Vet advisory visits.
It feels like I have spent a lifetime learning about how better to make things happen on farms, how best to communicate with farmers and how to get positive herd health results from people taking actions and embracing change. The experience I’ve gained has been hard won and has often come by learning from mistakes. The learning isn’t over by any means, but I really enjoy using my experience in my work every day.
Finally, and because this is important to me, my work goal is to make lives better for cows and the people who care for them. You will see this runs through pretty much everything I do. Welcome to Dairy Veterinary Consultancy!
My qualifications and awards include:
- Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Liverpool University, awarded with Distinction, 1994
- RCVS Recognised Specialist in Cattle Health and Production, first awarded in 2015 and re-awarded in 2020.
- RCVS Diploma in Cattle Health and Production, awarded 2013. This qualification has been awarded only twenty times in twenty years and is an indication of high academic and professional standard.
- RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) Certificate in Cattle Health and Production, awarded 2000.
- Nuffield Global Travel Scholarship, 2009. This prestigious award, sponsored by the Trehane Trust, allowed me to investigate the role of the vet in knowledge transfer in the dairy industry.
- BCVA (British Cattle Veterinary Association) clinical research grant, awarded 2010, in order to study the prevalence of and clinical indicators for sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) in UK dairy herds.
- Member of the Animal Welfare Science Ethics and Law Veterinary Veterinary Association (AWSELVA), formerly the British Forensic and Law Association, and Bond-Solon trained in Expert Witness report writing.