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10 January 2017

Benchmark wins ‘Science and Innovation’ award

Benchmark Veterinary surgeon, Ruth Clements, has won the Oxford Farming Conference/RASE Science & Innovation Award for the 5-Point Plan developed to tackle sheep lameness.

The blueprint, developed by Ms Clements of Benchmark, has been embraced by the UK’s sheep sector as a ‘multi-action’ programme designed to tackle the endemic and complex diseases that cause lameness.

The £10,000 prize money will be invested into continuing the work needed to implement and monitor the 5-Point Plan more widely across the industry.

Lameness is thought to affect at least 10% of sheep at any one time costing the industry an estimated £24 million a year as a result of lost productivity and the direct costs of antibiotics.

The industry’s need to address this problem, coupled with a chronic lameness problem within the company’s own 1,200-ewe flock on their FAI farm in Oxford, drove Ms Clements to find a solution alongside stakeholders including: DEFRA, AHDB, The National Sheep Association, Moredon and the State Veterinary Service.

Ruth Clements

Head of Veterinary Programmes, Benchmark Animal Health

In 2010, I began the project, working with innovative farmers who had reported their control of the problem. Like with any complex problem, we had to develop multiple actions to overcome it.

Ruth Clements

Head of Veterinary Programmes, Benchmark Animal Health

She adds that the ‘5-Point’ approach could also be adopted for other complex problems such as parasitic gastroenteritis in sheep, sea lice in farmed salmon and the control of herbicide-resistant blackgrass.

The Award was founded six years ago, by the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and the RASE, to recognise a recent invention, technology or scientific advance that has really boosted on-farm performance or profitability. It aims to encourage and distinguish new thinking and innovation and is open to academics, researchers and commercial company employees.

OFC/RASE 2017 Science & Innovation Award Interview

The 5-Point Plan is a worthy winner because it brings a practical solution to a problem encountered on almost all sheep farms in the UK. Ruth has also worked hard to gain the support of the wider industry to implement this approach as an industry standard, which is no mean feat.

John Gilliland

OFC Director and Judge

Ruth Clements was presented with her award at the 2017 Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday 4 January 2017.