As a business owner, I am currently focussing my mind on how to bring my team back from
furlough safely. This means risk assessments.
Luckily, veterinary professionals have a good understanding of the concepts of disease
prevention, but even so, drawing up new protocols is a dull task.
Whilst my mind was wandering, I suddenly remembered the most extreme case of disease
prevention I have personally experienced, whilst I was seeing practice with a pig vet.
Nigel was a world leader in pig medicine.
I spent three weeks shadowing his work, when I was a fourth year student. One day he said
we would be heading out to one of the SPF pig farms he looked after for a routine visit, and
that he had made special arrangements for me to accompany him.
I had to look up SPF when he was out of the room. It means ‘specific pathogen free’. This is
an awarded status that certifies that the herd of pigs are free from certain pig diseases,
which then allows the farmer access to higher prices and better breeding programmes.
But maintaining the SPF status is a constant battle.
I was really pretty clueless, so it was quite a surprise when I discovered that I was expected
to shower in and shower out of the farm. Even more so as no female facilities were provided,
so that I had to wait outside whilst Nigel showered through, then enter an unfamiliar shower
facility with strict instructions to strip, wash all over, including my hair, and then re-dress in
the overalls and boots supplied by the farmer.
Obviously everything was far too big for me. The underwear was clean but masculine. I had
to roll up the sleeves and trousers, whilst spending the whole time certain that I was being
exposed to an elaborate prank and was about to find myself on camera, or worse.
I missed half the discussion, as they were hardly going to wait for my arrival to start. But I did
discover that it was no joke.
We subsequently visited several more SPF farms, and I became a little more comfortable
with the process, but I never quite got used to driving between farms with my long hair wet
down my back. It might have been at about this point that I gave up my ambition of
becoming a pig vet.