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Success Comes When Livestock Producers & Their DVMs Are Partners

Success Comes When Livestock Producers & Their DVMs Are Partners

Two rather disappointing phone calls that I received from clients recently, along with a discussion among veterinarians at the recent meeting of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants (AVC), an organization of “beef veterinarians,” prompted this article.

Let’s start with the farm calls. First, “Bill” called to tell me that he was treating numerous home-raised, recently weaned calves for pneumonia. I obtained more history and discovered that there were problems with vaccine selection and administration. The result was that 35 of his 83 calves experienced bovine respiratory disease (BRD), while one calf died.

Another client, “Al,” reported that he called an animal health supplier to get implants for his feeder calves. With a dozen products with the same brand name, we can all understand how it can get confusing, but he ordered a very potent terminal implant (intended for steers only) for his group of 400-500-lb. feeder calves, which consisted of both heifers and steers. The research indicates that such an implant used in this age and weight of calf could significantly decrease carcass marbling, as well as potentially cause vaginal prolapses in heifers.


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In both of the above cases, I felt I had done a poor job of underscoring to my clients the importance of calling me with any questions they might have regarding their beef business. Did my clients think that they were bothering me? Were they worried about being embarrassed by asking questions they thought were of a basic nature? I hope not. I pride myself in encouraging all my clients to call about “anything beef.” I may not know the answer, but I will find the answer, or find the person who does know the answer.

The week following Bill and Al’s calls, I attended the AVC meeting, and it seemed like déjà vu all over again as our committee discussed the veterinarian-client relationship. We had a great discussion on the value of our services to our beef clients, along with the education that we as veterinarians get from our top clients. I recounted my recent interactions with the two callers, and others noted similar situations in which a breakdown in communication proved to have financially negative results for the clients.

This prompted me to poll the AVC members and ask “Why do you enjoy being a veterinarian?” I gave them 11 answers as options. By a landslide, the No. 1 answer was “I enjoy working with farmers/ranchers.” This didn’t surprise me, as my veterinary students many times will comment to me upon our completing a farm call, “Wow, Mr. Brooks is such a nice guy!”

The Nos. 2-4 responses were: “I enjoy keeping animals healthy,” “I enjoy the challenge of solving problems” and “I enjoy helping clients reach their goals,” respectively.

I have mentioned to other beef veterinarians that I think we as veterinarians are very poor at marketing our services to our clients, and most agree with my contention. In my two client examples above, a simple phone call from the producer would have prevented a very big problem for both of them. In the BRD case, our discussion also revealed some issues relating to nutrition and environment that needed to be addressed. I think I speak for virtually all of my colleagues in saying that veterinarians feel privileged to provide service and advice to our beef producers, and they should never feel shy about contacting us.

If your veterinarian is not a big part of your beef team, ask him or her to become more involved. The results of my survey show that we want to be on your team. The result of a veterinarian and client working together will go far toward attaining the ultimate goal of a win-win relationship. 

W. Mark Hilton, DVM, is a clinical professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.


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