Most of you from our Whitchurch practice will have met Raquel out on farm by now. We’ve roped her in to tell us a bit more about her region of Spain.
Where in Spain do you come from?
When I say I am from Spain the first thing people ask (sarcastically!!) is if I miss the weather. But.. I am from Galicia, Northwestern Spain, and the climate in this area is different from what you would expect! It rains… a lot! Even more so than in England! The main difference is seasonality, we have very high rainfall in the winter, whereas summers are hot and sunny – not as unpredictable as the UK!
Despite being the most beautiful place in the world (obviously!), Galicia is the largest milk producing region of Spain: 40% of total dairy production of Spain is produced here by 7500 farms, more than half (56%) of the total dairy farms in Spain. So if you want to work as a farm vet, this is the perfect place.
What have you done as a vet so far?
Since graduating in 2002, I worked as a cattle vet in several practices until 2008, when I started my own business providing veterinary services to farmers as a freelance.
For ten years I worked almost exclusively for seven intensive dairy farms (looking after 2000 cows in total) belonging to Coren Group, one of the largest agri-food co-operatives in Spain. As a lead veterinarian of these dairies, I was in charge of all aspects related to production medicine: reproduction, mastitis control, health plans, as well as staff training and providing all technical advice in order to improve farm profitability.
Why are you in the UK? And why LLM Farm Vets?
After 10 years working on the same farms I felt it was time for a change. I wanted a new challenge and it appealed to me to work abroad. The UK is the third largest milk producer country in the EU and as you probably may have noted my English needs to improve so I thought: what a perfect opportunity!
My main objective is to continue to learn and acquire new skills as a vet, so after several job interviews in different UK practices I chose LLM Farm Vets because it seemed to be the most innovating and progressive team. Moving to a foreign country on my own has at times been challenging but being part of this friendly and supportive team has made things easier for me! So yes, after ten months working in this great atmosphere I can honestly say I made the right decision.
What are the differences between farming here and in Galicia?
Like the rest of Europe, the Galician dairy industry has seen a movement towards intensification resulting in a reduction of farms but an increase in herd size and milk production. While grazing systems are quite common in UK, in Galicia 90% of dairy farms are confined to indoors systems, calving all year round and fed with conserved forages, mainly maize silage.
Lack of land represents the main limit to increase herd size due to the forestry industry which is huge competition (occupying 2/3 of total land area) as well as land dispersion and small landholdings. Lack of labour and next generation input also seems to be a common issue. This, together with the desire for a more relaxed lifestyle has led to the increase of robotic milking systems (since 2004 more than 300 robots have been installed in Galicia and number is increasing all the time).
What do you like more from UK and what do you miss more from Spain?
I love walking and the British countryside is simply beautiful. But I do miss the mountains of Galicia! The British people are so friendly, welcoming and polite – very polite (sometimes excessively so!) but this is compensated with such brilliant sarcastic humour!