Most producers understand the idea of prevention. Maintaining a vehicle is an investment of time and money, easier to manage and cheaper in the long run than waiting for a problem to happen.
It’s the same with cattle, says longtime veterinarian Dr. Pat Burrage. Producers who put a bit more into their vet relationship can really get a leg up.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with cattle producers for many years,” says Burrage. “One thing I know from that experience is that those who have a good relationship, good communication with their vet get a lot more out of it. It’s a lot better way to go than just calling a vet when you have a problem.”
VBP can help
There’s no reason why the producer-vet relationship shouldn’t be one of the best ones a cattle producer can have, says Burrage. Devotion, compassion, commitment are the things that any successful industry needs. Producers have this and vets have this. Working together can save time, money and just plain keeps an operation running in top shape.
“Those benefits are also a big reason why the vet relationship is one of the key components of the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program,” says Burrage. “Whether it’s simple things like keeping good herd-health records that both producers and vets can update and refer to, to consulting a vet more broadly on best ways to incorporate standard operating procedures, it’s a relationship where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
Tips for getting the most benefit
Based on his years of experience with producers of all sizes, here are what Burrage views as some of the keys to getting the most from the vet-producer relationship.
Think investment, not cost.When producers are under pressure to cut costs, the vet relationship can suffer. It’s worth a close look to see if you are really saving, or if it is better economics to invest in good maintenance. “Both producer and veterinarian have to realize that we veterinarians are just a cog in the wheel,” says Burrage. “The wheel just turns better for the producer when the veterinarian is involved.”
Patience and trust are key.“The vet-producer relationship is no different than any other business relationship — it requires patience and trust,” says Burrage. “In developing a new relationship, discuss expectations with the veterinarian.”
The VBP program is a very good way of initiating a relationship, he says. “Veterinarians are well trained in animal health and welfare. Some are better than others at understanding the business of beef production, but when both parties learn, the relationship can flourish.”
A crisis-only relationship is a poor one.“A good relationship can’t be maintained with a once a year call at 3 a.m. for a difficult calving.” Give a veterinarian the opportunity to help the business.
Think total herd health.Most producers with a veterinarian relationship will have animals on a herd health program as an investment in risk management, says Burrage.
Remember: You’re in it together.“We need to keep our producers in business.”
Records uphold health, food safety.It’s more than just herd health today, says Burrage. “Keeping records is imperative for food safety. Treatments have a withdrawal period from the time the animal is treated until the drug clears the system, making the meat safe to consume. That’s why you need to record date and type of treatment.”
It is far cheaper to prevent disease than treat an outbreak.“Treatments are costly, labour intensive and quite often depressing,” says Burrage.
Keep current.Veterinarians are also aware of new products and management techniques in health management that can benefit producers.