From the Editor
What does a veterinarian do?
When did you first decide that veterinary medicine was the career for you? What did you think you would do as a veterinarian? I was only 4 years old when I made that decision. In my mind, a veterinarian helped all types of animals. I would make sick animals well and improve the lives of all animals in my care. I had very grandiose goals. In my early teens, I took my dog to the local veterinarian for her annual vaccinations. He owned a dog named Katie. My dog’s name was Pindi. However, the veterinarian regularly called my dog Katie – substituting my name for my dog’s name. What I learned from that veterinarian was to keep people’s and pet’s names sorted out.
In my later teens, I had the great fortune to work for two brothers, Drs O’Connor, in Stouffville, Ontario, who owned a mixed-animal practice. They showed me the veterinary medicine that I wished to practice. They primarily cared for cattle and pigs, but also offered small animal services to the farming community. They had a wonderful rapport with the producers – they knew their families and cared about their livelihoods. It was obvious to me that the care of the animals and the responsibility to the farming businesses were both important. The O’Connors were hard-working veterinarians, dedicated to the community and to the clients they served.
This issue of the Journal of Swine Health and Production has been an interesting one for me to read – not only for the science, but also for the opportunity to think about our careers as veterinarians. In “Straight talk,” Tracy Ann Raef1 has captured the potential alternative career paths several of our AASV members might have taken if they had not had the opportunity to attend veterinary college. Our industry is fortunate that these veterinarians did succeed.
The manuscripts written by Amass,2 Dee,3 and Baker4 all in one way or another deal with biosecurity. As an aspiring veterinarian, did you contemplate working on biosecurity? I certainly did not. However, today I find it both fascinating and challenging. Biosecurity both within and between farms has become a reality for swine veterinarians. I am sure you will be interested to read about cleaning and disinfecting trucks and the potential of other species moving viruses between farms. In the manuscript by Amass,2 I was surprised at the variation in success of the cleaning procedure. How can one procedure remove all bacteria on one occasion but leave substantial numbers behind on another occasion? In my simple-minded approach – it is the people factor. It is our job as veterinarians to take the science and move it to the field. As veterinarians, we become teachers and coaches, first teaching and then encouraging people to put this biosecurity information into practice. Finally, we become quality-control officers, ensuring that the policies continue to be followed.
I was struck by the realities of biosecurity during my recent visit to Kenya. We did follow-up visits to the 170 farms that we visited in June and July. The farms are in two very distinct communities. In Butula, the land is flat and the farms are small and very close to one another. In Funyula, the terrain is hilly, and the land is rocky and less able to sustain crops. In this locality, farms are farther apart both because the farm size is larger and because you have to walk down a hill and up another to reach the next farm. Farms in both communities are clustered into municipal groups called villages. Some farmers in Funyula believed that we had caused their pigs to die. These pigs either died suddenly or after being sick for a few days. Some died 2 weeks after our visit in July – others died in October. We are not doing anything to the pigs that would cause them to die – but we did likely pose a biosecurity risk. A team of researchers walking from farm to farm, handling pigs at each farm, could spread disease. We did not have access to water, so often would not have washed our hands, let alone our shoes, between farms. There is rumor that African swine fever was brought into the area with some imported pigs from Uganda. Did we spread this virus from farm to farm? I hope not, but perhaps we did. On a more positive note, in June, we injected all of the pigs with ivermectin to treat Haematopinus suis infestations. When we returned in November, the pigs in Butula were re-infected, but the pigs in Funyula were not. The farmers had not done follow-up treatments for the pigs. In Butula, untreated pigs run freely between farms, but in Funyula we did not see any free-range pigs. The geography and pig-keeping practices in Funyula acted as a biosecurity barrier to parasite transmission.
Biosecurity is indeed an important part of what you and I do as veterinarians. Despite the challenges of veterinary medicine, or perhaps because of these challenges, I am thankful for my career as a veterinarian.
1. Raef TA. Straight talk. What if? J Swine Health Prod. 2006;15:57.
2. Amass SF, Thompson B, Dimmich KM, Gaul AM, Schneider JL. Impact of downtime on reducing aerobic bacterial counts in cleaned and disinfected trailers. J Swine Health Prod. 2007;15:37–41.
3. Dee SA, Torremorell M, Thompson R, Cano JP, Deen J, Pijoan C. Evaluation of the thermo-assisted drying and decontamination system for sanitation of a full-size transport vehicle contaminated with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. J Swine Health Prod. 2007;15:12–18.
4. Baker RB, Wanqin Y, Johnson CR, Peterson LR, Rossow K, Daniels S, Daniels AM, Polson D, Murtaugh MP. Prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is not a host for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. J Swine Health Prod. 2007;15:22–29.