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Learn to optimize your veterinarian partnership.

14:31PM Jul 24, 2008


Dan Goehl, DVM


In today's ever changing beef industry many producers can feel overwhelmed with new technology and information. It is more important than ever to have resources positioned to help make management decisions that will influence the profitability of an operation for years to come. 

Your veterinarian is often one of the more educated and knowledgeable member's of the community on animal health issues as well as other industry trends. There are many ways to utilize this unique resource, some traditional and some not.

1. Traditional services

Traditionally veterinarians have been utilized for routine work on livestock -- performing tasks such as pregnancy diagnosis, castration, vaccination and semen checking bulls. These tasks can be very beneficial or detrimental to the bottom line and should not be taken lightly. 

For example, selecting the proper vaccine and administering it correctly and at  the correct time needs to be coordinated with your DVM. Vaccines may not only become ineffective, but can be harmful if not handled correctly.  Talk to your veterinarian about ways to optimize vaccine efficacy. He or she can also help you evaluate animal health records to see if there's a vaccine or biosecurity issue if too many cattle become sick.

Also, rather than blindly semen checking bulls, ask for input on  bull selection, and utilize pregnancy data for management decisions.  Nothing is more disappointing or economically devastating for a cow calf producer than to go into calving season expecting calves only to find out pregnancy rates were severely diminished.  I have witnessed situations where none of the cows were bred, and the producer was not aware of it until calving season.

2. Data Management

Some veterinarians offer data management for the cow calf and stocker client. This information can help gain more useful insight into data collected such as utilizing pregnancy diagnosis to determine calving intervals, days to breed back etc. 

With cost to maintain a cow escalating to over $450/head, managing reproduction, tracking health results and other data can minimize input on poor producing animals.  Programs such as Standardized Performance Analysis can help determine what components of an operation need to be adapted.

3. Marketing

Ask your DVM if they participate in or know of a marketing alliance to help take advantage of working with a group of producers to collect data and gain economy of scale advantages. 

For example, preconditioning programs are a good way to add value to your animals. The spread between preconditioned and non preconditioned animals has widened in recent years.

Our clinic has participated in the Missouri Verified Beef program for the past several years. The program is directed at allowing small and middle size producers to commingle cattle and market them as a group. Producers gain the benefit of direct marketing as well as detailed information being returned. 

4. Custom Animal Care

There are some unique practices that can help in development of heifers, bulls, etc.  Your DVM will be able to help with synchronization programs, embryo transfer work, tract scoring of heifers, just to name a few.  Some clinics have the ability to provide housing for animals that can be developed off sight of the ranch. 

5. Customize Herd Health Plans

Your DVM has intimate knowledge of disease processes and testing protocols. 

Diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrhea and Johne's disease have complicated pathogenesis and your veterinarian will be able to customize a herd health plan unique to your situation. How to structure cattle flow and vaccinations can vary depending on your area and prevalence of disease

In addition, he can help you develop a biosecurity program to keep threatening diseases out of your herd or reduce exposure.

6. Total Herd Management

For the small to moderate size producer to compete in the future of the beef industry, you will need to become intimately involved in all aspects of the operation. This includes purchasing of inputs, marketing of cattle, genetic selection, nutrient management etc.  And it's not easy to do that on your own. Your DVM can help you develop a team of people to meet these needs.

By working together to obtain nutritional consultation, herd health consultation as well as obtaining purchasing and marketing power, you can better maintain profitability into the future. 

Dan Goehl,DVM, and his wife own and operate Canton Veterinary Clinic in Canton, MO, where Dan works primarily with stocker and cow/calf beef operations. Dan is also partner in Professional Beef Services, LLC, which offers herd consultation and helps in data management and marketing of beef cattle.