Vet-client relationship has changed over the years
June 2, 2016
I hate to say it, but our area is a little too wet. The grass looks great, but the row crops are suffering. There is still some corn to plant and the beans are barely started and it is the first of June. We sometimes get in too much of a hurry. One spring when I was a kid on the flatland in Iowa, we got hailed out on Memorial Day. Dad replanted once it dried off, and contended that was the best corn he had raised. I still have hope for the row croppers in my area. I travelled north this weekend for a birthday party. The farmers were in the field and the beans were already emerging. No one here has done much for the last two weeks.
Recent surveys reveal most beef producers are satisfied with the services their veterinarian provides. In the time I have been practicing I have noticed a change in both veterinarians and clients they serve. I'm an old timer (65+) and have felt for the past ten years that I may be the end of an era. We were educated to care for the individual animal. We had feelings for the client as well as the animals we treated. I felt a loss when my client took a loss. I watched their children grow and some of them returned to the operations. The clients and vets of that era had a strong work ethic, and did whatever it took to get it done. The problem was the perception of the rancher about vet school. One late night in a rancher's barn we successfully extracted a calf from an old Hereford cow. I was young and new in the area and he said, "Doc, I bet you pulled a lot of calves in vet school." I shook my head yes, but in reality we rarely ever encountered an obstetrics call. For that age group, it was about our physical abilities and skills. We were trusted with the stock and they expected a strong effort and success.
In the recent years veterinary schools have adopted a more economic approach to veterinary medicine. The questions from clients are much more financial. What is the cost of the treatment or vaccination? How many will I lose if I do nothing? The veterinarian is a source of information and not a hired hand to help care for the farm's livestock. The problem then arises that guys like me never charged for information, only for work. How would my clients feel if I sent them a bill every time they called for information or to ask a question like my attorney does? My practice, like many others, is offering very specific services for special customers like large group semen evaluations, artificial insemination services, carcass ultrasound and many others. Our younger producers use these services and we provide them in a simple easy package.
For years we have been concerned about a shortage of large animal practitioners. There are many reasons for fewer large animal practitioners, but salary paid by practitioners in our area is not an issue. Education has become expensive. Last year the American Veterinary Medical Association wrote that the average debt for a student in $135,000. We have had interns with $250,000 to $300,000 in education debt. Many young people, who would make excellent large animal veterinarians decide the seven years of school and large debt are more than they want to endure. They find other jobs in the more lucrative agriculture sectors.
Couple the greying vet (guys like me), the lower cattle markets, and the perceived vet shortage and what does the USDA decide to do? Require Veterinary Feed Directives for antibiotics fed to livestock adding to the workload of you the producer and your veterinarian. Don't worry, we will get through it, just like we've done a hundred times before. The interaction of your veterinarian with you and your herd is the most important relationship in your future. Together you will easily move through these new directives.