Based at the world home of flat racing in Newmarket, Rossdales was already Europe’s largest equine veterinary practice, working with a wide variety of clients in and around East Anglia, across the UK and from abroad. The practice has an international reputation for clinical excellence and employs more than 50 veterinary surgeons, including more recognised veterinary specialists than any other UK practice, and over 100 support staff.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, the Animal Health Trust — which provided the equine industry with vital disease surveillance — closed permanently. This resulted in the loss of an important, long-established veterinary centre that has been acclaimed for its pioneering research, diagnostics and treatments for horses.
One of the major contributions of the Trust was its ability to detect equine flu early to avoid the catastrophic impact it could have on the industry. So, having already made over two million pounds of investments to redevelop its lab facilities over the preceding two years, Rossdales stepped in and offered to save the work and the skillset of the experienced staff at the Trust by incorporating not only the commercially viable lab work but also the less commercial disease surveillance testing into its own business.
This was far from straightforward. To undertake the work the Animal Health Trust carried out would require further significant investment in new lab space and associated services plus staff to run it. However, the benefits of being able to be more responsive and agile to disease and outbreaks of viruses were too powerful to ignore.
Business Director Kerstin Alford explains: “The Animal Health Trust played a huge role in dealing with equine health, helping to detect and control equine-related diseases. We already had a strong working relationship with the Trust and when news of its demise came through we were all keen to try and preserve its services if we could, as it was uncertain where those sorts of resources would sit in the future.
“The British Horseracing Authority issued a tender to take over the Trust’s services and we put in a bid for it. We knew that if we won the bid, significant investment would be needed to develop the facilities, so we spoke to New Anglia LEP to see if there was any grant funding available for which we would be eligible.
“We put together a strong proposal that outlined what we would need funding for, which included new labs for the detecting and safe handling of viruses and the retention of three of the Animal Health Trust’s staff. It would allow Rossdales to offer the most comprehensive equine health services in the UK.”
Kerstin was put in touch with the LEP which helped put together the application for funding from its Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Fund. Despite a tight timeframe, its application was quickly approved and it began working with contractors on the construction of the new labs and virology suites. As the practice had recently completed the tender for the Animal Health Trust work, its business case was robust.
Rossdales received 10% of the total funding it needed, which amounted to £38,000. As a result it has been able to take on three lab technicians from the Animal Health Trust and hasn’t had to cut back on any of the support areas the Trust had provided. It has also enabled the business to take a completely holistic approach to equine diagnostic testing and treatment.
“Our lab team have been incredible in the last year in putting together the winning bid for the Animal Health Trust’s services and working hard to deal with a significantly increased laboratory caseload.” said Alastair Foote, Clinical Director at Rossdales who is responsible for Rossdales Laboratories.
“I’d fully recommend talking to the LEP about funding if you have a big investment project looming. The application process is straightforward with the necessary rigour and auditing you’d expect but the support from the LEP was always there.”