- news, features, articles and disease information for the swine industry

The Pig Site Backroom

6th January 2003


It is with the greatest sadness and tears in my eyes that I have to announce that on Saturday 4th January 2003 my father, Mike Muirhead passed away in Hull Royal Infirmary with all his family by his side. This followed him suffering a massive stroke on Thursday evening. Mike was aged 66.

I am sure that many of you, if not having met and known Mike, will know of his tireless work in the Swine Veterinary Profession over the past 30 or so years. In addition to his many awards, he was the main author of 3 books on swine health, including the renowned 600 page tome Managing Pig Health and the Treatment of Disease - A reference for the farm. His technical expertise was also the driving force in the development of our web site, without whom the project would not have got off the ground and become the success it is today.

In light of this news, this weeks newsletter is dedicated to Mike and his work.
I hope I do him proud.

In Memorandum.

Michael R. Muirhead

Michael R. Muirhead was a world renowned veterinarian who, for the past 30 years, specialised in pig practice and developed a reputation for his innovative and far-reaching approach to swine veterinary practice.

Mike Muirhead was born on 23rd May 1936 and attended Bloxham School, Nr Banbury, England where he rose through the ranks to become Head of School.

In 1954 Mike joined the Royal Marines 45 Commando Unit to complete his National Service, serving in Cyprus, North Africa and Malta. During his service he was commissioned Second Lieutenant and received the Sword of Honour and the Navy's General Service Medal.

Mike then went on to the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, Edinburgh where he qualified with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery degree, receiving the Silver Medal in Medicine and Surgery.

After qualifying in 1961 Mike commenced mixed practice in Doncaster for two years before joining a dairy practice in Shropshire. In 1965 he moved to Beeford, a small village in Yorkshire, where he joined a two man mixed practice with a focus on turkey and pig production.

Mike entered into partnership in 1966 and over the next 34 years helped the business excel in the field of consultancy services to the swine industry. Today Garth Vet Group employs 11 vets and over 30 lay staff and provides consultancy services to in excess of 80,000 sows world-wide.

During 1967 he gained first hand experience of the devastation that Foot and Mouth Disease can cause, narrating the story to the BBC in March 2001 at the beginning of the recent outbreak. A fascinating story with a chilling conclusion that all but came true.

In 1979 Mike became a Fellow of the Royal College by his thesis entitled "Intensive Pig Production Studies in Preventative Medicine." He went on to gain a Diploma in Pig Medicine in 1984 and became chairman of the examiners for both the Diploma and Certificate from 1984 - 1991.

Throughout his career, Mike consulted for large and small breeding and commercial swine operations throughout Europe and North America and was a partner in a 240- sow production unit.

Mike was also a prolific writer, being co-author of three reference books on pig health and reproduction. He was a founder and regular contributor to International Pigletter, and published more than 60 papers on swine management and disease control. He also lectured extensively to societies and farming groups.

Mike's work did not go unnoticed by his profession. In 1977 he won the William Hunting Award from the Veterinary Record for the best clinical paper. Mike presented the First Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture in Kansas City in 1978 and delivered the first Kernkamp Lecture at Minneapolis University in 1979. In 1980 he received the prestigious David Black award for services to the UK pig industry and the Bledisloe Award from the National Agricultural Society of England in 1985.

One of Mike's proudest moments was when he received the Dalrymple-Champney's Cup and Medal for 1989 from the British Veterinary Association in recognition of his long and outstanding services to veterinary science.

During the period 1994 - 1996 Mike was an Associate Lecturer at Cambridge University and in 1997 received the Mountfield Award from Driffield Agricultural Society.

Further awards followed in 1998 and 2001 respectively when he received the R W Hall of Barry, Glamorgan prize from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for his outstanding contribution in the field of clinical observation and practice among farm animals and the 2000 Allen D. Leman Science in Practice Award from the University of Minnesota for creating and publishing information for veterinarians and the global pork industry.

At that presentation U of M veterinary researcher Robert Morrison, a member of the award selection committee said "Mike Muirhead was measuring pig performance and setting productivity benchmarks 20 years ago, which helped set the tone for the industry. He had the desire to help people by publishing his observations and providing leading-edge information."

In 1994 Mike embarked on probably his greatest challenge, the dissemination of his years of experience into the book Managing Pig Health and the Treatment of Disease. The main author of this 600 page tome, he not only wrote most of the material, but also set up a family business to publish and market the book due to what he regarded as the completely unfavourable terms of publishers.

Two further books followed on pig diseases and infertility in 1999 and 2000 respectively, followed by the launch of the web site in May 2000. A comprehensive legacy for his years of dedication to the industry, and one that will be continued with vigour in the years to come.

Right until the end Mike remained fully active in the business. In addition to his legal work as an Expert Witness, he was deeply involved with the problems associated with wasting disease (PMWS), publishing a number of ideas and theories for discussion. He also sat on the MLC's research working group into the disease. Mike was also in the process of compiling the 2nd edition of Managing Pig Health..., writing a book for Pet Pig Owners and was part way through his "Piggy Peter" project, a compilation of 26 educational children's stories about a character called Piggy Peter and all this friends.

As well as all his contributions to the pig industry he was also a devoted family man. He married Louise Oliver in 1962 and had 3 sons James, Nicholas and Nigel. He was, as grandfather "Poppa", so enjoying the time with his 6 grandchildren, all of whom are going to greatly miss him reading them his Piggy Peter stories.

He will be sadly missed by all.

Jim Muirhead

Updated 7th Jan

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