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How to maximize your regular monthly vet visit

Emilie Briggs for Progressive Dairyman Published on 07 August 2017

For many dairy operations, the vet bill is a line item often considered a necessary evil. It has been established by generations that the veterinary expense is not questioned, pushed or reconsidered.

Today, a professional veterinary consultation is part of ensuring consumer safety, but this expense does not need to come at the cost of negatively affecting your bottom line.

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There are strategic ways for producers to work with their vets to maximize their monthly fees and obtain more assistance from their service without damaging the long-term relationship between the farm and the veterinarian.

Have a meeting plan

Before your vet arrives, take the time to set an agenda. Identify the known stresses on the herd ahead, such as pen moves, new feed, weather or adding cows. Consult with your veterinarian on what health issues may be on the horizon, and develop an action plan for you and staff to be prepared.

Ask if he or she sees anything of concern in your operation. Another set of experienced eyes can often detect potential problems you might have missed. No matter how frequent the visit may be, take a few minutes to prepare yourself for valuable meeting time. This will ensure when the vet leaves you have as much information as possible.

Learn to learn

Veterinarians love their work, and they have skills and knowledge that should not be taken for granted. Their skill set includes techniques and practices they can do swiftly and naturally. Take the time to shadow your vet on-farm. If a relatively simple and common procedure is being performed, ask how to do it yourself and have your veterinarian show you how.

Tasks such as vaccinations or treating milk fever, retained placentas or mastitis fall into this category. By doing it yourself with proper training, you save your vet’s time and your money. Although there can always be more complicated scenarios where your veterinarian should be contacted, it is a much better use of your time and dollar if you work with your vet to develop protocols for basic tasks not requiring a specialist.

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Prevention is the best treatment

It is well said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but prevention takes work. Prevention requires collecting information, analyzing the data, making comparisons, paying attention to details and tracking results after implemented changes.

Proper prevention requires the entire staff. In order to make prevention a policy, an “all-hands-on-deck” attitude is a requirement; this includes using the veterinarian as a tool and a resource.

So, again, ask questions. While performing simple treatments together, ask if and how these treatments can be prevented. Start in a particular area – for example, the nursery calves – and ask what you can do differently to reduce treatments.

Then track the results. A good prevention program requires good data and analysis to see if improved methods provide a payoff.

Have a cost conversation

Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for his or her ideas on lowering your treatment costs. Chances are he or she has some ideas about improvements your farm can make to save money and run more efficiently. Again, because of his or her experience with other local farms and general industry knowledge, your vet is a valuable resource.

So don’t hesitate to have these conversations; doing so helps your vet become more involved and keeps the lines of communication open, honest and productive.

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Have regular health check-ups on the relationship with your vet. This is vital if you are to work as a team to accomplish the goals you and your vet have both individually and together.

Is he or she working to communicate protocols and costs on a regular basis? By the same token, are you listening to his or her advice and implementing the suggested improvements? If not, why not?

To some extent, you are opening your farm doors to a third-party evaluation, but it comes from a highly educated individual who already knows many aspects of your operation.

Keep in mind his or her perspective is not meant to offend you as an individual but rather provide you with an honest and professional assessment of your farm practices. Only by having a close and healthy relationship can he or she suggest changes and know they will be received with an open mind and the spirit of cooperation.

On the other hand, this is a two-sided relationship. If your veterinarian is not providing you with constructive advice and consultation to help you grow, improve and decrease spending, what are you really paying for in this relationship?  end mark

Emilie Briggs
  • Emilie Briggs

  • Project Manager
  • Mountain View Cooperative

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