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Veterinary experience in the cattle industry

Bruce W. Hoffman Published on 23 December 2011

The cows are preg-checked, being fed and we are in that unhurried phase of the year, waiting for that first calf needing assistance or care.

For veterinarians, this is the time for contemplation, reflection and strategic thinking. What occurred in our geographic region and in the U.S. as a whole in 2011 that impacted and will continue to impact our industry? On a global level, what circumstances are altering the way we practice?

These questions should be studied thoroughly in order to prepare our clients for the upcoming year. Are we using our experiences gained to make the best decisions in veterinary medicine? Do we have 20 years of experience or 20 one-year experiences? Are we educating ourselves about the technologies available in order to give our clients the proper advice?

Upon leaving vet school, many of us were fed a lot of client care information that, at the time, was pertinent and useful.

Drastic changes in our industry, coupled with technology, have rendered most of that information outdated and, in some cases, useless.

Many of us have been reluctant to embrace the new landscape of our business and it has blocked our ability to see the true needs of today’s cattle operations.

Traveling the country, I am frequently told by producers that one of their many concerns with their operations is that their vet teams are not keeping up at the level the larger and leaner operations require.

In addition to pregnancy diagnosis, cattle operations require health management plans that are reviewed and potentially modified annually.

Biosecurity and expansion plans are important to keep new diseases from entering herds. Training of employees in proper cattle handling and Beef Quality Assurance techniques can be offered in down-season periods.

Marketing and connection with feedlots is another area that vets can assist in facilitating. Data management is challenging for producers and veterinarians can analyze the records producers keep now.

Start with simple baseline data that are reviewed in an annual “sit-at-the-kitchen-table visit.” Veterinarians should have the ability to review the data and provide valuable support and advice.

The advice we give needs to be based on science and not margins of products being sold. Incorporating veterinary technicians in our practices to assist in these services will make our practices more valuable to the changing industry.

Many veterinarians practice in areas that have large numbers of cattle and far too few vets. New technologies, including blood pregnancy testing and diagnostic screening, offer producers options with regard to time management and operational efficiencies and allow the vet the same benefits.

Cattle veterinarians that are not embracing the latest science or learning about new care options and, instead, are relying on their past experiences alone, will indeed struggle to manage their clients’ needs.

Statistics continue to show the industry is getting smaller and herds are getting larger. Our services will need to match this landscape and our “experience” will need to not be based on our technical skills alone, but also on our ability to design, implement and sell our services to the cattle industry.

We cannot be all things to all people. As operations expand, they require more specialized services and can afford to seek it out if it is not local.

Decisions have to be made as to which clients you can serve. Unfortunately, the producer that has some cows to eat the grass on his ranchette may have to understand that the cost to have a veterinarian come out only for wrecks is extremely high.

This dilemma tugs at our hearts because we want to serve “all creatures great and small” and meet all the needs of a community.

Remember that producers will find others to assist them and many times they bring in experts from out of the area that the local vet could replace with proper training and association with the right organizations.

Using our experience without looking forward to the needs of the industry is a mistake. The industry is changing too quickly for us to sit back.

It does require extra effort and risk on our part, just like the clients we serve. I think the veterinary profession is valuable for the cattle industry, but we need to rethink, from the producers’ view, how they value us.

Step one: Ask them. Step two: Listen. Step three: Think about how you can combine your experience, knowledge and current science to remain a valuable asset to their operation.  end_mark

Bruce W. Hoffman

Animal Profiling International, Inc.