Article Summary: Rural veterinarians play a critical role in the health and well-being of animals in agricultural and farming communities. They provide a range of services to farmers, including routine health checks, vaccinations, disease management, and emergency care. They also play a key role in promoting animal welfare and environmental sustainability. But that’s not all. Veterinarians are there to help you, too. Read on for tips on building better farmer-vet relationships and more information on how your farm will benefit.
As animal farmers, you know that building strong relationships with your veterinarians is key to maintaining the health and well-being of your animals. But what does this mean in practice? How can you work with your vet to achieve better animal, farm, and business outcomes? In this informative long-form blog, we'll explore the history of veterinary science, the role of rural veterinarians, and practical steps you can take to build better relationships with your vet.
A brief history of veterinary science
Humans have relied on animals for centuries for food, transport, and companionship. As a result, the care and treatment of animals have been a concern throughout history.
However, the development of modern veterinary science really began in the 18th century, when veterinarians started to organise into professional societies and developed more systematic approaches to animal health and disease management. This is when the prime focus of veterinary studies and treatment was on horses and the occasional farm animal.
Today, veterinary science is a highly specialised and rapidly evolving field with many areas of expertise and focus. And while city-based vets are growing with the prevalence of pet ownership, rural veterinarians still play a crucial role in society and farm success.
The role of rural veterinarians
Rural veterinarians play a critical role in the health and well-being of animals in agricultural and farming communities. They provide a range of services to farmers, including routine health checks, vaccinations, disease management, and emergency care. They also play a key role in promoting animal welfare and environmental sustainability. But that’s not all. Veterinarians are there to help you, too.
The role of vets in farm nutrition
Animal nutrition is crucial to a cow's productivity, fertility, and overall health. In fact, feed is often the biggest farm expense, so it's essential that farmers and veterinarians work together to optimise diets and ensure economic gains for you as the farmer. Poor nutritional management can cause many clinical health problems, including Left Displaced Abomasums (LDAs), clinical acidosis, milk fever, and calving difficulties. Long-term effects of poor nutrition may lead to poor fertility and increased susceptibility to disease.
Veterinarians are often called to treat these diseases, but it's important to understand why the cow became sick in the first place. You, your vet, and your nutritionist must work together to identify the root cause of the problem and develop a proactive preventative plan for the future. This may involve investigating why there is a discrepancy between the ration on paper, what is fed to the cow, what the cow eats, and how the digestive system processes the nutrients.
In short, nutrition is a critical aspect of animal health and well-being. Your vet team can play a key role in helping you develop customised nutrition plans that meet the specific needs of your animals. This can involve analysing feed samples, providing guidance on feeding and grazing practices, and recommending supplements and other nutritional products.
The decline of rural vets
Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the number of rural veterinarians in recent years. This can be attributed to various factors, including the increased cost of education and student debt, as well as a lack of job opportunities in rural areas. Additionally, many rural communities are experiencing declining populations, which reduces the demand for veterinary services.
This decline in rural veterinarians has significant implications for farmers and the broader agricultural industry. Access to quality veterinary care is critical to the health and well-being of livestock and, ultimately, the quality and safety of the food supply. Without enough veterinarians to provide these services, farmers may struggle to maintain their herds and flocks, and the quality and safety of the food supply may be compromised.
To address this issue, various global initiatives are being developed to encourage and support the training and placement of rural veterinarians. This includes financial incentives for students pursuing rural veterinary careers and loan forgiveness programs for those who commit to working in underserved rural areas. For instance,
Canada's "ProAction Initiative"
Australia's "Veterinary Support Program"
New Zealand's "DairyNZ InCalf"
The decline in rural veterinarians is a concerning trend that requires attention and action to ensure the continued health and well-being of animals in rural areas and the quality and safety of our food supply. This is why it’s important for farmers to be good advocates for farm vets. That is, providing a mutually beneficial working relationship and supporting their cause to encourage new graduates into the profession.
Building better relationships with your veterinarian
Building a strong and productive relationship with your vet is essential to achieving better animal outcomes. Here are some practical steps you can take to build a better relationship with your vet:
Regular communication with your vet is key to building a productive relationship. Share updates on your farm's activities, animal health issues, and any other concerns with your trusted vet partner. Your vet can also update you on the latest research and best practices in animal health and management.
Don't wait for an animal health issue to arise before contacting your vet. Regular check-ups and preventative care can help you identify and address potential health issues before they become more serious.
Collaborate with your vet
Work with your vet to develop a customised animal health and management plan that meets the specific needs of your farm and animals. Your vet can guide you on everything from vaccinations and nutrition to disease management and environmental sustainability.
And your vet is there for you, too
As a farmer, having a good vet is more than just having a skilled practitioner. Your vet can be a crucial member of your team who helps you work productively and sustainably. It's important to understand that problems on your farm may be part of a larger issue, and approaching each situation with an open mind is crucial. By gathering and using all available information, you and your vet can ensure successful outcomes for your farm and your animals.
Working as a farm vet comes with many challenges in routine and emergency call-outs. They deal with physical hazards, financial constraints, and mental and emotional strain on the farmers and farm team. Farmers face significant resource strains, and small issues can have a large impact. Therefore, vets must be alert for underlying issues beyond what may initially appear and consider these when deciding on a course of action. Your vet has the potential to become a valuable member of your farming community by offering more than just a one-off visit.
Relationships are key to farm success
Building a good relationship with your farm vet can lead to the best farm outcomes because it enables you to receive timely and proactive advice, preventing issues before they arise, reducing the need for emergency call-outs, and promoting better animal welfare. A strong relationship also fosters better communication, leading to better decision-making, worker well-being and ensuring that all parties are on the same page regarding animal health and welfare. Ultimately, the collaboration between a vet and the farmer contributes to greater productivity, efficiency, and sustainability, ensuring the farm's long-term success.
At Pasture.io, supporting farmers is the core essence of our success story—we understand that farming is a tough gig. Tackling on-farm issues from a farmer's perspective, and working at providing smart, efficient, measurable ways of making certain farming decisions easier, we feel humbled in reaching farmers worldwide and positively contributing to not only your farm’s success, but your professional relationships and overall wellbeing, too.
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-02-16