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Oklahoma State University

Having a Veterinarian on Your Team: Why It’s Important for Success

Monday, November 2, 2020

Dr. Rosslyn Biggs

In successful cattle programs, effective herd owners build strong teams to assist them with monitoring industry changes, marketing, nutrition, health and daily operations. One essential member of every progressive cattlemen’s team is the veterinarian.

A veterinary team member is now more important than ever as many areas, particularly rural communities, experience difficulty in recruiting and retaining veterinarians. Additionally, increased oversight such as the Veterinary-Feed-Directive and judicious antibiotic usage make the Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) even more critical.

According to the Oklahoma Veterinary Practice Act revised July 1, 2020, a Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) exists when:

a. the licensed veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of an animal or animals and the need for medical treatment, and the client, owner or other caretaker has agreed to follow the instructions of the licensed veterinarian; and

b. there is sufficient knowledge of the animal or animals by the licensed veterinarian to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal or animals in that:

     1. the licensed veterinarian has recently seen or is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the animal or animals, or

     2. the licensed veterinarian has made medically necessary and timely visits to the premises where the animal or animals are kept or both, and

c. the licensed veterinarian is readily available for follow-up in case of adverse reactions or failure of the regimen of therapy, or has arranged for emergency medical coverage, and

d. the licensed veterinarian’s actions would conform to applicable federal law and regulations.

An established VCPR allows a veterinarian to legally practice veterinary medicine. This includes diagnosis and treatment, prescribing antibiotics and writing Certificate of Veterinary Inspections, commonly called health certificates.

In March 2020, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners revised their guidelines entitled “Establishing and Maintaining the Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship in Bovine Practice,” and identified the following areas as critical VCPR components:

  • Maintain written agreements for working relationships.
  • Have a veterinarian of record.
  • Clarify any and all relationships with consultants and other veterinarians.
  • Provide written protocols.
  • Ensure written or electronic treatment records are maintained.
  • Provide drugs or prescriptions for specific time frames and for specific protocols.

The best approach to a VCPR is not as a statutory or legal requirement but emphasizes the relationship aspect.

Active communication is the best foundation of a partnership between a client and veterinarian as it provides the basis for effective health and welfare of animal patients. Developing this relationship provides the opportunity to strategically evaluate herd health protocols, biosecurity, management strategies and other operational activities. The profitability and sustainability of both the cattle operation and veterinary practice should be considered in the relationship. Ideally, the relationship does not begin through a first meeting at a 2 a.m. calving or other emergency.

Finding a veterinary practice that fits the needs of your operation is key. Take the time to develop a long-lasting, effective relationship well before crisis strikes. Like cattlemen, veterinarians continue to be faced with multiple challenges. Investing in a solid VCPR creates a strategic alliance that proves mutually beneficial to both producers and veterinarians.

STORY BY: Dr. Rosslyn Biggs is an assistant clinical professor at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She earned her DVM degree from Oklahoma State University and currently serves as a beef cattle Extension specialist and director of Continuing Education.

MEDIA CONTACT: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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