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In your own words... What is the vet’s role in animal welfare?

Published on 16 September 2010

1410pd_iyow_magalhaes_full“I think in the dairy business we are doing a very good job, but we still have a lot of room to improve cleanness, especially in small and mid-sized dairies. I’m not talking about the well-established freestall barns because they take very good care.

I think the vast majority of dairymen are taking very good care of their animals because they need to keep them healthy and comfortable to have a good quality product, good quality milk and have longevity for their cows.”

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Alvaro Magalhaes
Independent veterinarian
Clovis, California

1410pd_iyow_currin_full“Veterinarians’ role in animal health is, first and foremost, to assure the health and well-being of the animal and, secondly, to help the producer to utilize the animals to the best of their production abilities.”

John Currin
Virginia Tech
Extension Dairy Veterinarian
Blacksburg, Virginia

1410pd_iyow_guterbock_full“I think that the vet’s role besides the clinical work, the preg checks, the surgeries, the vaccinating and the other physicals tasks that the vet does, is to be an advocate for the animals. In running a dairy there are many, many distractions – marketing milk, buying feed, purchasing equipment, maintenance of equipment, facility maintenance, manure issues – there are lots of things that push their way to the top of a producer’s to-do-list.

Believe it or not, some producers don’t step back and say, 'OK, what are these cows really going through?' So the veterinarian is in a position to say, 'What we are doing with this cow? This is supposed to be happening, but isn’t happening. We need to change this or that to improve her life or welfare, because in the end, happy and healthy animals are the most productive and the most profitable.'

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Certainly a dairy producer doesn’t intend to mistreat or neglect animals, because nobody gets ahead that way, but what happens is there are other pressures. For example, all of the sudden a lot of heifers come in, the close-up pen is crowded, and we have more transition problems.

Someone has to say, 'Let’s consider the needs of the animal and what are we doing day-to-day in our management. What should we be doing? What are we doing that we shouldn’t be doing?'"

Walt Guterbock
Manager/Veterinarian
Columbia River Dairy
Hermiston, Oregon

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