From the Executive director

Those were the days

Tom BurkgrenAs I write this message, we have just celebrated another 4th of July holiday. As I sat there watching the parade go by, I could not help but reflect on how some things have not changed very much. Sure, the people in the parade are different. The tractors are newer. The pickups pulling the floats are newer. But the essence of the parade has not changed over the years. The fundamental nature of the parade is celebrated the same today as it was 40 years ago. For the most part it has remained untouched by progress.

There is, perhaps, very little that has remained untouched by progress. Pork production is no exception. I don't have to list the changes that have taken place over the years. You are living those changes every day of your professional lives in veterinary medicine. But has the fundamental nature of being a veterinarian changed over the years?

While rummaging through the AASV archives, I came across an AASV newsletter that contained the results of an informal survey of pork producers. These producers were asked "What do producers want from their veterinarians?" It was a small and unscientific sample, but their answers were still insightful. The list was not rank-ordered, but a few observations jumped out at me:

  • Be thorough and careful in diagnosis.
  • Conduct postmortem examinations when necessary.
  • Inform client as to vet's opinion: take producer along in the thought process.
  • Remember that the animal bears the cost.
  • Reduce the cost of disease; must stop disease before it costs us.

In what year was this survey done? If you guessed 5 or 10 years ago, you are wrong. It was done more than 30 years ago, in 1972! As I looked down the list generated by the survey, I became convinced that the fundamental nature of swine veterinary medicine has not changed a great deal over the years. I believe that if asked today, many producers would respond in a fashion similar to the responses given in 1972.

I do agree that things are different now, compared to 30 years ago. Some of the diseases have changed. The sizes of the farms have changed. Buildings have changed in size and design. There are some new drugs available, and some of the old ones have been removed from the market. Despite some differences over time, the fundamental nature of veterinary medicine has not changed. Producers still place their trust in veterinarians to diagnose and treat disease conditions. Preventive medicine is still practiced on a daily basis. Producers still turn to their veterinarians for advice and counsel on issues of health and production. Veterinarians are still quite cognizant that the pig pays for everything.

Granted, there were some responses from 1972 that probably do not fit with modern pork production, such as "Not color medicine." Of course there may be some veterinarians who still persist in adding color and fanciful names to dispensed pharmaceuticals. If there are, then shame on you! From my perspective, however, swine veterinarians have done a good job over the years of meeting the expectations of their clients. The pork industry has often been criticized by consumer activists because veterinarians and producers have such a close working relationship. I would not have it any other way when it comes to providing the best health and well-being for the pigs in our care. An adversarial relationship between producers and veterinarians would serve no one's best interests.

Today's veterinarians and producers share many of the same attributes and concerns as our colleagues from 30 years ago. Rather than say "Those were the days," perhaps we should state "These are the days." Let's make the most of them while we still are here!

Tom Burkgren