From the Executive Director
One thing that I have missed after leaving private practice has been the windshield time spent driving from one farm to another.
Depending how stretched I was for time, these moments might have been spent on
the phone, dictating notes into a recorder, eating lunch, or simply thinking about
the last call or the next. Most of my travel these days is by plane. Hours on
airplanes just do not match up to the quality time
I used to spend behind the wheel of my practice vehicle. That window on the
plane is more of a porthole than a windshield, and I never traveled from farm to
farm with a large group of strangers sitting shoulder to shoulder munching on pretzels.
My recent trip driving to and from Orlando for the 2003 Annual Meeting
gave me a chance for plenty of windshield time. The trip down was filled with
last-minute thoughts as well as last-minute phone
calls focused on the preparation for the meeting. However, the trip back was more
relaxed and allowed more time to simply enjoy the road and observe the other travelers
driving down the interstate. I could not help but start thinking about the road that we in
the swine industry are traveling down. Several analogies popped into my mind.
The interstate is filled with all sorts of drivers and vehicles. The swine industry
is similarly filled with all sorts of producers and veterinarians. On the interstate you
see the big semi trucks rolling along, sometimes in long lines traveling together
at high speed. Perhaps these are comparable to the large production systems,
rolling along with a clear destination in mind and certain knowledge on how to get
there. Some perceive them as a threat to run down anybody who gets in their way.
Others perceive them as a great vehicle to lead the convoy because they deflect the
wind and allow you to ride in their draft, easing the way.
You also see those drivers traveling in older, high-mileage vehicles that are still on
the road because they have been cared for and well-maintained over the years. These
vehicles may not be as efficient as newer models, but they are paid for and still
running. They are, however, threatened by higher operational costs like
maintenance and fuel. Sound like any production
systems you know? There are some very skilled pork producers doing a great
job with facilities that may be marginally old, but are still producing a quality product
in a cost-effective manner.
There are those vehicles that run right up on your tail, with drivers urging you
to either speed up or get out of the way. They are not unlike a number of swine
veterinarians in today's industry, perhaps seen as impatient and impertinent, but more
likely they are visionaries with a driving sense
of urgency and a keen sense of direction. They are anxious to get to the future,
but are also willing to lead others down the same highway.
You have also seen those drivers who are uncertain about where they are and
where they are going. Their driving reflects their
uncertainty as they anxiously look for some familiar landmark or a directional
sign. They may be looking for the next exit so they can ask directions. They may even
be looking for an alternate route to avoid the speed and congestion on the
interstate. Today's producers face a great deal of
uncertainty. Some may be looking for the exit to do just that, exit the industry. Others
are seeking your advice on how to survive. There are also those looking for
different ways to raise pigs, such as organic production.
Of course you cannot forget the highway patrol and county sheriffs out there
picking up speeders and assisting with
accidents. The swine industry has their own
version of cops, namely the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of
Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other state and local
governmental agencies. How we view these agencies may be determined by our
compliance to the rules of the road and our need
Finally, there are those roadblocks that we know can happen at any time. For
the swine industry, these could be characterized as foreign animal disease, loss of useful
antibiotics, or the emergence of new diseases. We can try to steer around some, but
others will have to be removed before we can continue on our way. Preparedness is
essential so that our reaction to roadblocks is quick and decisive.
Right now the road we call the swine industry is wide enough for many
producers and veterinarians. It is what is down
the road, over the horizon, which always raises some concern. The consequences of a
narrowed road will mean that some vehicles will be sitting on the side of the road.
Our role as veterinarians is to ensure that our clients are given every chance to stay on
the road, in the industry. Are we correctly interpreting the signs along the way? Are
we adjusting speed and changing lanes as conditions change? Are we being responsible
in our professional conduct? Are we even traveling to the same destination as our
producers? I can think of a lot more questions that we may or may not be able to
answer or may not want to even consider. Perhaps too much windshield time is a