Straight talk

Everyday challenges

Every profession has unique challenges. For this issue, the following question was asked: From your perspective, what is the biggest challenge for a swine veterinarian today? Below are the responses.

From Sarah Probst Miller

“My biggest challenge and greatest joy is balancing work and family. I love my job as a swine veterinarian, so it is easy to let days get long if I am not careful. It is always great to hear reminders from peers in the industry that encourage me to spend that extra time with the little ones. It is also wonderful to have a husband kind enough to hint that a week has been a bit long, so maybe next week I should call it a day a bit earlier to hang out with the kids. It is hard to draw that line, but oh, so important, and drawing that line is one of the most important things I do every day. So I may not get the award for the most hours worked, but I get the satisfaction of knowing that little hands have my hand to wrap themselves around.”

From Mike Mohr

“I think one of the big challenges for swine veterinarians today is to add concrete financial legitimacy to the disease equation. Our future challenge is to get back our credibility on effective disease control in order to convince financial experts of the value of controlling disease.

Case in point: lack of industry-wide PRRS control and a non-standard production model. The disease devastates the global industry, but after nearly 20 years, we don’t know enough about how individual case spread occurs to stop outbreaks in a cost-effective manner. We do not have good biosecurity tools to trace back to the root causes of outbreaks.

Furthermore, as a group, we have not come up with good disease or production methods to cause big changes to systems. Here, I mean that all-in, all-out per site is a great idea to reduce the cost of chronic disease, but we have not been able to convince the accountants sufficiently to have all systems adapt this as a standard production model, as in the poultry model. Thus, the big challenge to us as a group is to come up with a standard model for measuring the financial impact of the disease, invent good tools to trace back cause-effect root causes of PRRS outbreaks, and then to present the information in a manner that overcomes the accountant’s argument that the intervention program costs too much, especially in these times of low or negative margins. For, under the present schemes and constraints, I have too often found that, in the end, they are right.”

From Roy Schultz

“Time management to balance profession life and personal life. Too often, the demands from our clients overwhelm us at the expense of our private lives. Set aside some time each day to interact with your loved ones, and to thank God for the blessings we have received. Remember, swine veterinarians have an average life span of 27,563 days. Take your age 365 and subtract that number from 27,563. That’s how many days you have left to do this!

Prioritizing daily and long-range tasks and goals. Forget the small stuff – you don’t have time for everything. Then act, don’t procrastinate – ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’

Evaluating the economic impact of the recommendations we make for our clients, especially in these economically difficult times in swine production. Recall what Dr Al Leman asked, ‘If I were my client, would I hire me?’”

From John Waddell

“I believe the biggest challenge for swine veterinary medicine today and for the future is to attract, train, develop, and mentor the best and brightest of society in the nuances of swine medicine. To fail would be to create a vacuum in the livestock industry that would likely be filled by non-veterinarians and those less qualified to protect the health and welfare of our vast food-supply production system throughout the developed world. We must strive to obtain, hone, and then pass on the skills of critical thinking and scientific reasoning, which are critical to providing ongoing knowledge and services to an increasingly sophisticated clientele.”

-- Tracy Ann Raef