AASV dream headlines
Wow! The year has gone by so quickly for me. The one presidential duty I dreaded the most going into this job was writing the President's message, but it turned out to be the most rewarding. I have really appreciated the feedback (in calls, letters, e-mails, and hallway conversations) from all of you who felt compelled to respond to my soapbox comments from previous columns. Sometimes we agreed, sometimes not, but I always learned something in the process. Amazingly, after my turn as Past President, I will not miss the conference calls, the e-mails, or even the board meetings (I have been to every one since 1993!), but I will probably miss this column, because it gave me opportunity to get feedback I never would have gotten otherwise. Thanks to all who shared their opinions and ideas.
We did get a number of things accomplished within the AASV this past year and have many new projects off the ground, but there is always more. As I sit here and ponder over the past year, I have started to compile a list of dream headlines that I would like to see in AASV's future. How would you like to be able to read some of these?
"New gestation housing design wins praises of both producers and animal welfarists"
Wouldn't it be great if we could have a more welfare-friendly design that was affordable and good for production?
"First graduates from the Swine Excellence Center enter the workforce with a better education and knowledge of the swine industry"
What if we could put aside all the university "territorialism" and just send our swine-interested veterinary students to the faculty and private practitioners who could train them best, regardless of where the students earned their degrees? If you know how to break through this barrier, President Sibbel needs to hear from you.
"Swine veterinarians rank among the best paid veterinary professionals"
Hey, the membership and PR committee's recent survey proved this one, so check it off the list!
"The American Medical Association publicly applauds the swine industry for its part in reducing antibiotic resistance through judicious drug use, vows to do better"
If we all followed the American Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) guidelines to the letter it could happen, right? Call the AASV office today (515-465-5255) if you do not have your laminated copy of the AMDUCA guidelines.
"Dr Tom Burkgren takes a long overdue family vacation"
If everyone signed up for AASV committee work because they were actually volunteering their time and not padding their resumes, the work could get done and maybe Tom might take some vacation time. Send me a postcard when you get there, Tom!
"Pork - THE white meat"
What if US and world pork consumption skyrocketed as chefs, dieticians, fast food chains, and consumers everywhere learned to appreciate pork's great taste and lean value at an affordable price?
"Both private practice and industry find a good supply of new graduates interested in swine"
What if pre-vet and veterinary students understood that the swine industry is a great opportunity for a challenging and rewarding career? Better yet, what if potential employers realized that new graduates may need to be enticed with other things in addition to money (ie, flexibility, further education opportunities, compatibility with family life, and access to new technology)? In the interest of self-preservation, we have several AASV projects already ongoing to help us think outside the box on this one.
"Foot-and-mouth outbreak in North Carolina is contained to small operator feeding garbage from cruise ships"
Actually, I wouldn't wish this headline on anybody, but I would be comforted by the fact that any such incident could be identified and contained before it spread halfway across the country. We have a very active Foreign Animal Disease committee already making great strides here.
"US and Canadian pork slaughter capacity ceases to be a limiting factor"
Wouldn't it be great to even out this "feast and famine" game on hog prices and alleviate some of the tension with our Canadian producers?
"The Center for Disease Control applauds AASV for its active role in PRV and PRRS eradication in swine"
If you are going to dream, might as well dream big.
"AVMA recognizes the importance of food animal veterinarians"
Although we are becoming a smaller percentage of the AVMA, it would be nice if AVMA recognized the importance of supportingour role in the US food supply and their duty to at least back us up on issues of significance to our members.
I hope to see at least a few of these headlines become a reality. I have appreciated the opportunity to serve you as President of AASV. There were many opportunities throughout the year to mix with veterinarians from other species groups or allied partners in the swine industry. The one consistency I noted is that AASV is a very well respected organization within these circles. We should all be proud of that. I personally learned a great deal in this past year that I am certain I can put to good use as I fade back into the reality of being a regular ol' practitioner again. I leave you in good hands with Dr Sibbel at the helm. I also offer special thanks to Drs Burkgren and Shulteis for all their guidance and patience throughout my term, and to my partners and associates in practice for putting up with me all the time, but especially this year.
See you at the meetings.
The PAST, the PRESENT, and the FUTURE
As I sit here, moving into the year as president of this wonderful organization, I'm forced to reflect, think, and dream about life as a veterinarian. I wonder about the past and what would have happened had I stayed in practice back in the mid-80's. I'm convinced that I would still be in practice had the agriculture economy in North Central Nebraska not turned so sour so quickly. However, many of the opportunities in this fine profession would not have been possible for me had I not had the courage to change my lifelong dream of being a veterinary practitioner. I remember, like yesterday, the conversations I had with Jack Anderson (an excellent mentor and leader in our organization) as I balanced all the issues necessary to sell out of practice and move on. Thanks, Jack, for the ear and advice during those difficult moments. As I began the new journey after practice, I learned from these PAST experiences the amazing creativity that change can accomplish. It seems change was about the only constant in our profession in those days, and the same is true today.
The PRESENT is about us and is certainly no less challenging. Who would have thought the tenets of swine veterinary medicine would be so dramatically challenged, as they seem to be today. Gone are the days when keeping pigs healthy and growing quickly was enough to keep swine veterinarians gainfully active in their profession. I heard an economist the other day indicate that the best predictor of sustainability in the swine production is way more than being the least cost producer. He went on to say that the best marketing contracts are probably a better indicator of sustainability. So much for the power of auction markets and competitive pricing. I was in a packing plant doing some development work and overheard several conversations about how most high margin export contracts really want primal cuts from 235-lb pigs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we get more premiums from hogs much larger? On one hand, our plants need bigger pigs with more meat volume, and on the other hand, customers who are willing to pay more for pig meat want smaller cuts. Can anyone say confusion?
What does the FUTURE hold? My crystal ball is certainly no better than yours. The looming issues are many and very energized. Consolidation in the swine industry will continue to place more and more pigs in fewer and fewer ownership hands. The poultry industry taught us that this requires fewer veterinarians per species industry. So just how many swine veterinarians are needed for the future? Our veterinary colleges are going to have to limit training in some areas due to cost containment and curriculum pressures. Will swine veterinary medicine be eliminated in some schools? What is the role of swine veterinarians in educating future swine veterinarians? I would suggest that we will have to assume a more active role to ensure the continued excellence in people recruited and trained in our favored veterinary discipline. I was at a leadership conference this last weekend in Chicago, hosted by the AVMA. It is clear that food animal veterinarians will have to be more vocal and more attentive to the needs of our professional segment. There continues to be an overwhelming shift towards the needs of the companion animal segment of our profession, simply because food animal practitioners are (more and more) a minority in the total population of veterinarians. Who would have thought we could be described as poor caretakers of the welfare of the pig? Societal trends (encouraged by moving several generations away from agriculture) create new and uncomfortable ways of looking at animal agriculture. Human medicine and veterinary medicine seem to be on a collision course over issues surrounding availability of animal health products. I somehow thought we were both interested in what is best for the creatures we tend to!
I could go on and on about the many issues staring at us every day as we go forward sharing the "gospel of swine veterinary medicine." Suffice it to say we have opportunities everywhere to make a difference in this ever changing profession. I am here to serve. I invite everyone to take a moment and communicate with me about the AASV and its mission.
We look forward to seeing you in Orlando. The annual meeting will be a good one in a fine southern climate, so snow and ice should not be an issue. Our program is designed to challenge all of us to think creatively. Be sure to listen to the Monday morning sessions, as they will bring a new flair to the opportunities in our profession.
I hope this next year brings you much wisdom and wealth, and I look forward to serving this organization as best I can.
-- Rick Sibbel