Interview with livestock veterinarian of over 20 years on BioInnovation courses

Kate Hovers is a livestock vet based in Powys. She is 61 years old and has worked in mixed practice for over 20 years but now has a number of roles, including:

We caught up with Kate to find out why she chose to study at BioInnovation, the highs and lows and what she learnt to help in her current roles. Since then, Kate has applied to do an MRes (Research Masters).

What made you choose to take BioInnovation courses?

I saw the Bioinnovation courses advertised and thought that I would like to do something more academic. I have always had an interest in research and am currently involved with 3 EIP (European Innovation Partnership)research projects. Although I wasn’t looking to expand my career, I was looking forward to carrying out some academic studies and the modules seemed relevant to my work.My first module was Behaviour Change, which I knew very little about. I think this is a subject that is important for anyone. For me as a vet, it was particularly helpful in understanding how to engage with farmers and also gave me an understanding of why I behave the way I do. It inspired me to take more modules and commit to doing a research project.’

What did you think it would be like to be a distance learner?

‘I didn’t really know what to expect. I was a bit concerned about my broadband speeds because I live on a farm and sometimes find it difficult to stream films, but this hasn’t been an issue with the lectures. I was worried about reading papers online too, but that is something I’ve got used to’. Kate is now on her 5th taught module, although she only needs 3 for the MRes!

What was it like? Highs and lows!

I really enjoy the access to academic papers that being a student gives me. I did struggle with the first assignment as I hadn’t done any academic work since the 90’s – and no one had computers when I did my degree, so it’s a very different way of studying. For me, completing an assignment is really satisfying and It has given me renewed enthusiasm for the rest of my work.

How well do you think the format works for working people?

‘The format works well [to fit around work] because students can choose how much work they want to do. Obviously if you want to work towards a qualification, you need to set aside some time each week. I usually spend 2 afternoons and 1 evening per week studying. It’s great because you can choose when to study’.

What (if anything) have you learnt that is useful in your current role?

‘The Public Goods module has been really useful in my work with the NSA and in engaging with Welsh Government on policy relating to hill farms. I have used some of what I learnt in the Precision Livestock module in training other sheep vets and the techniques I leant in the Behaviour Change module are useful in all my work.’

Tell us a bit about your research ideas –What sort of impact do you see it having? 

‘I have lots of ideas, mostly about ways to improve lamb health and welfare: one is looking at why ‘Joint Ill’ [a disease in lambs which can leave them permanently lame] occurs in some farms and not others. Not much is known about the risk factors for the disease so a better understanding could really help to improve lamb health and welfare.’ Kate will be starting the Research Methods module in September where she will develop a concrete proposal.

Further information

Further details about courses at BioInnovation are available online: https://bioinnovationwales 

Phone: 01970 823224