Straight talk

The sky’s the limit

When it comes to value-added services, there’s no limit on the type of service swine veterinarians can provide. Whether it’s high-tech, low-tech, cutting edge, or pushing the edge, value-added services are the present and future of swine production and medicine. Read some of the ways these veterinarians have added value to their clients’ businesses and lives.

From Larry Rueff

“A value-added service that we have used for 20 years is benchmarking. When PigChamp® was first released, we started compiling comparison tables so our clients could see what average, high, and low performance was in sow productivity. We have expanded this service so we release this data every quarter and clients can see how their numbers stack up. In addition, we include wean-to-market performance data. Clients pay for the report separately and it is a good stepping stone for more discussion when we are doing our regular consultation visits.

We will probably supply more auditing services as we move into the future.What farms are doing versus what they think they are doing are often times two different things. I think we will be supplying this type of service in areas such as animal welfare and biosecurity.”

From John Waddell

“We have always attempted to keep astride of emerging issues and diseases as well as any new programs that are offered by the National Pork Board, such as Pork Quality Assurance Level 3, Swine Welfare Assessment Program, and Take Care. Our practice recently became early adapters of the AASV’s PRRS Risk Assessment program. We’ve been aggressively conducting risk assessments on sow farms for our clients. The risk assessments have allowed us to enroll some sites in the PRRS Survival Study, which in the long run may offer valuable information on why some farms continuously re-break and some never do.

We are also aggressive educators of our clients and their employees. We offer training sessions, often with industry technical veterinarians, on topics to help clients become more proficient in the business of pork production.

Value to our clients can also be found in educating ourselves. We seek out and attend various educational opportunities, such as the AASV annual meeting, the Leman Conference, and the International Pig Veterinary Society meetings, so we can remain at the cutting edge of information in an attempt to keep up with our best clients.”

From Sarah Probst Miller

“Employees can be the difference between a 15% preweaning mortality and a 9% preweaning mortality. Training employees on the “why’s” behind the details of their jobs has been a value-added service we offer clients. If we can get a 2400-sow farm down from a 15% preweaning mortality to a 10% preweaning mortality by intensive employee training, (estimating a $0.30 reduction in cost of production per piglet per 1% reduction in preweaning mortality), we reduce the cost of production per pig by about $1.50, about $84,000 per year. Our clients like this. To be successful in this value-added venture, we find that repetition, different angles for different employees, and focusing on the basics and accountability are keys. Our computer-based training CDs are a key part of this value-added toolbox. I see the future leading us to integrate the accountability part of this service over the Internet with Web-based testing and goal setting (based on progress of other farms and employees in the training and testing system).”

From Matt Ackerman

“Currently, we offer herd health and production consulting. We focus on production records and diagnostic information to identify the areas of strength and weakness, and on areas that our client wants to improve. Areas we hope to focus more on in the future include Metafarm’s i-Production Financial-Based Production Records, which will allow us to identify and monitor factors to maximize profit per pig; PRRSV eradication; and continuing to identify and implement new technologies to help keep our clients profitable.”

From Daryl Olsen

“Several years ago, we added a Director of Continuous Improvement to our staff. Her main responsibility is to create an atmosphere of constant improvement within our business and within all of our clients’ businesses. She works closely with veterinarians and production staff to assess the current business and redesign a better plan, and helps to implement this plan within the business. In the future, veterinary practices must provide services beyond disease diagnosis and production expertise. Think outside the box when creating new value-added services.”

From Lisa Tokach

“I have performed these valuable services while at pig farms: rabies vaccinated the dog (and cat and horse and bucket calf); examined a kid’s rash to see if it looked like ringworm; taught a grandma how to buy a book for her granddaughter on the Internet; determined the sex of the baby rabbits (and kittens); installed various software programs, wireless keyboards, screen savers; advised a family on what to do and see at Disney World in Orlando (based on valuable information I gathered at the 2003 AASV meeting in Orlando); programmed a client’s mobile phone with a cool ring tone; attended a funeral for a turtle that had been hit by a car; taught hands-on anatomy of the pig to an eager 12-year-old future veterinarian; provided an ear, often followed by a phone number, for marriage counseling and drug and alcohol problems; and lectured a middle-school student on the importance of learning algebra if he wants to be a veterinarian. What services do I foresee in the future? The sky is the limit and I am only limited by the frustration of having only 24 hours in a day. Is this a great profession or what!?”

--Tracy Ann Raef