Finally, understanding that stocker operations are really margin driven is essential for the students to begin to see the economics of production. It also gave them some insight as to how a practitioner might work with stocker producers.
(They also got to learn what really good BBQ and sweet tea tastes like!)
BV: Do you think understanding how these operations operate and are managed, what their purpose, goals and businesses are, is just as important to know as the animal health aspects of being a bovine veterinarian?
TE: Absolutely!! I don’t think you can manage the animal health program adequately unless you understand the business end of the operation. Every one of these units that we toured had different strengths and weaknesses due to management and cattle. Basic protocols that involve metaphylaxis or implant programs or receiving vaccinations or drug selection are all impacted by how the cattle are managed and how big the economic margin is. We really tried to get the students to understand that part of the equation.
Our plan is to make the “Grass Cattle 101” trip an annual event as part of our Beef PIKE program (Read more here). We have had very good support from Elanco Animal Health, Bayer Animal Health, and Ft. Dodge Animal Health in the past. We will continue to look for support for the program so that we can continue providing our students with this type of opportunity.