Veterinary Viewpoints: Cultivating veterinarian and producer relationships
Friday, January 13, 2023
Media Contact: Kaylie Wehr | Coordinator, Marketing and Public Relations | 4057446740 | firstname.lastname@example.org
What does a great relationship between a veterinarian and livestock owner look like? Livestock owners and veterinarians can agree that a strong relationship is critical for success in animal health and when done right, can be rewarding for all involved.
Dr. Meredyth Jones, associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, sought out the veterinarian’s perspective on what makes this relationship successful. A large group of rural, large animal veterinarians were surveyed and almost all responses fell into ten themes.
- Organization. Have plans set when the veterinarian arrives, make sure all farm personnel are on
the same page and have one person designated to make decisions. Even seemingly little
things like already having tags made, having records at the chute, and knowing where
the open cows will go when exiting the chute is important. This really helps veterinarians
to be efficient and saves the owner money, as most vets charge for their time.
- Round up the animals. Please have the animal or animals that need to be seen gathered and ready to go.
Most of the time, your animals are easier to gather without distractions such as unfamiliar
trucks. Even down animals need to be restrained in some way. Down animals should have
a rope or halter placed on them and be tied to an immobile object, like a tractor.
- Safety. Please try to provide a safe working environment. This includes both equipment and
animal factors. Having well-designed and maintained pens, alleyways and chutes helps
ensure the safety of the animal and people who will be in and around the facility.
Cattle that are regularly worked with in a calm and quiet manner are much safer to
work around than those who are handled by chasing, yelling or with excessive electric
prod use. Many ranchers will only process cattle a few days per year, while a veterinarian
spends weeks at a time processing animals all day, every day. This results in a significant
amount of wear and tear on our bodies. Producers should always have a way to safely
- Regular appointments. Please call your veterinarian for routine work, not just emergencies. Many veterinarians
are seeing an increased caseload which has significantly limited their availability.
As such, many have decided to only see emergencies from regular clients. This can
leave you in a bind if you don’t have an established, daytime relationship with a
veterinarian. Another benefit to this relationship is establishing treatment protocols
and prevention plans on your ranch. This can significantly reduce your yearly veterinary
costs. Most after-hours emergencies could be avoided with these plans in place.
- Make emergency calls ASAP. Please call your veterinarian early for suspected emergencies. Even with the best
plans in place, emergencies will happen. If you think a heifer may calve in the evening,
call to give your vet a heads up before 5 p.m. It may seem small, but calling early
gives them a chance to understand the situation and perhaps provide some coaching
to help you know when intervention is needed. Getting your veterinarian involved,
even by phone, as early as possible greatly increases the chances of timely action
and a positive outcome.
- Understand the beef industry. Please understand the beef industry as a whole and the vital role you have in it.
If you are a cow-calf operator, your calves move forward to the stocker/backgrounder
phase, then to the feedlot and finally the processor. While this is a concept producers
understand well, what often goes unrecognized is the success of the industry depends
on the performance of these animals at each step of the journey. If a calf leaves
the cow-calf sector without strong disease immunity due to inadequate nutrition, parasites
or lacking proper vaccinations, it costs the industry in lost performance at the next
phase and negatively impacts each phase after. Be invested in what happens to your
animals in each phase of the cycle and the impact that has on animal welfare, food
quality and industry reputation.
- Have and share prevention plans. Share your vaccination and deworming plans for your herd and give us an opportunity
to advise you. Selling vaccines and dewormers is not a high-profit area for veterinarians,
so they are able to advise with less bias toward certain companies or products. It
is important to ensure you’re getting information from someone with a perspective
on what diseases are present in your area and who has your economic viability as their
- Understand the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). You may say, “Isn’t that what this whole article is about?” Well, kind of. The VCPR
is more than just how the veterinarian and client relate to each other, it is a legally
defined relationship required for a veterinarian to provide you with prescription
drugs. The components of this relationship are: the veterinarian has made a preliminary
diagnosis and is available for follow up; the veterinarian has a working knowledge
of the animal’s environment and care; and the veterinarian ensures appropriate drug
withdrawals are observed. A VCPR can be established in different ways, including in-person
visits to a ranch at regular intervals, written protocols for disease identification
and treatment on the farm and seeing an individual sick animal and making a diagnosis.
This is another example of how having a regular, daytime relationship with your veterinarian
can save you time and money in the long run.
- Help your veterinarian understand the situation. When your veterinarian is asking a lot of questions, he or she is doing so to better
understand your operation—your goals, your challenges, your herd health plan and how
you operate. This not only helps to solve a problem, but also helps develop plans
specific to your place and herd. There is a reason for every question we ask; we really
are trying to find a resolution to a problem and a plan to prevent another one.
- Share your nutrition program with your veterinarian. A common misconception is that veterinarians do not get any nutritional training. Nutrition is an important part of the veterinary curriculum and is even expanding in many programs. As with any professional, there are some who may have a stronger interest in nutrition than others, just like there are accountants with a stronger interest in corporate taxes than personal taxes. Most veterinarians do not intend to overhaul your feeding program. Rather, they seek to understand your feeding goals. This can help give your veterinarian perspective on other aspects of your herd health plan such as the ability of animals to respond to vaccines and disease exposures, fertility in the herd and risk for parasite problems. Nutrition is not only your biggest cost, but it is also foundational to everything else in the herd.
At the end of the day, your veterinarian wants to serve you. The increased volume of cases veterinarians are currently experiencing may lead to delays in scheduling farm visits. Please keep in mind, veterinarians are working hard to serve all their clients with highest quality care. By taking the steps outlined in this article, you are ensuring the best outcome for you, your herd and your veterinarian.
About the author: Dr. Meredyth Jones is an associate professor in the veterinary clinical sciences department at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She received her DVM as well as a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. Jones is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine - Large Animal.
Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species, as well as emergency care. Call 405-744-7000 for an appointment or see more information at vetmed.okstate.edu.
OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 33 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma. Established in 1948, the CVM is dedicated to the education and development of skilled veterinarians who are committed to the protection of human and animal health.