VetPartners is dispelling the myths about what it takes to be a farm vet.
We’re building diverse, welcoming workplaces where colleagues from all backgrounds can enjoy fulfilling, impactful veterinary careers even if they did not grow up on a farm.
Here, Mia Ellis, from Westpoint Farm Vets in Chelmsford, shares her career journey, which includes a keen interest in more sustainable ways of farming, and how she has broken the farm vet stereotype….
IF Mia Ellis 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 was the first member of her family to go to university, and broke with tradition in choosing life as a farm vet over showbusiness.
Her mum Sara is a make-up artist, who has worked on feature films and on 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.
“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,” said Mia.
“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 Royal Veterinary College in London, which included an intercalated degree year where she did molecular medicine at St Bars in London, before graduating in 2019 and joining Westpoint.
During her preclinical year placements, she had to go milking and spent two weeks with a dairy farming family in Kent.
“It was my first time on this sort of unit and they were so happy to teach me about everything,” said Mia.
“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 Masters in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester, as well as a Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP) in cattle at Liverpool University 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.
Her 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 (SIG), where it was suggested that I 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 makes 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.”