A Challenging year for bovine veterinarians

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This year we’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in the agriculture industry from severe drought and cattle herd liquidation to high corn prices to a fluctuating stock market. Your beef and dairy clients have been impacted by these and other factors that have put their management and business acumen to the test.

Current AABP President Christine Navarre, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, Louisiana State University, says during these times bovine veterinarians have been at the forefront of dealing with their clients’ issues as well as issues facing the veterinary profession.

One example is the significant effort from AABP’s Ad Hoc Committee on Rural Veterinary Practice. The conclusion of the committee was that there is not necessarily a shortage of food-animal/rural veterinarians, but a misallocation of veterinarians in certain areas that are underserved by them. It concluded that just increasing the number of veterinarians being graduated is not the answer, but rather studying successful practice models that can be sustained in those areas would be fruitful. “That work continues and outcomes will hopefully prepare our members for future issues,” Navarre says (see the report at www.aabp.org).

Opportunities continue to present themselves if veterinarians are willing to evaluate them and how they can fit in with changing trends, regulations and industry activities. Navarre believes there will be significant opportunities to expand herd health consulting, helping prepare producers for welfare assessments/audits and performing those audits. In addition, “the FDA appears to be moving toward more veterinary oversight of pharmaceuticals,” she notes. “That will offer both challenges and opportunities for veterinarians to work with both beef and dairy producers.”

In this issue’s cover story incoming AABP President Brian Gerloff, DVM, and Academy of Veterinary Consultants President Tom Latta, DVM, both weigh in on the current state of the profession and where the road might take beef and dairy veterinarians the next several years. Many of their thoughts echo those of Navarre that consumer issues — often fueled by activist groups — will drive some changes in the livestock production industries. “There will be increasing pressure to provide assurance to consumers that beef and dairy products are safe and produced in a humane fashion,” Navarre states.

Mother Nature threw a monkey wrench into the works with the prolonged heat and drought across much of the country this year. “The drought in Texas and surrounding areas, which shows no signs of abating in the near future, will cause further decreases in an already very shrunken national beef herd,” Navarre explains. “Bovine veterinarians will be needed to help producers mitigate these impacts. Keeping retained cattle alive and healthy and dealing with challenges of expanding when the drought is over will keep bovine veterinarians busy. Regaining markets that will inevitably be lost will also be a challenge.”

Food-animal veterinarians of all types — private practitioners, consultants, diagnosticians, educators and technical services — have always risen to the challenge to help their clients through good times and bad. Change is inevitable for all of us in the livestock industry and it’s how we handle it that will determine our success.

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