when you are so close to your producers?
I just finished talking to the production manager at a farm I work with that broke with a novel field-strain PRRS virus last spring. We implemented a herd-closure and stabilization project and are at the critical time right now where we will be introducing gilts back into the herd. We are both excited and nervous about the coming weeks, and we had what I call a locker-room motivational talk this morning on how we need to keep up the hard work and it will pay off. Our conversation demonstrates the kind of teamwork needed between the veterinarian and the producer. Whatever area of the swine business you work in as a veterinarian, the relationship and trust we have with swine producers is the key to our success.
This summer I had the opportunity to meet with the executive team for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and during that meeting I had a side conversation with one of the AVMA executive members. The conversation started with a question to me: “How can you make objective decisions about welfare when you are so close to your producers?” This question gave me a completely new perspective on the outside view of what swine veterinarians are asked to do. We are asked to give sound advice to our clients, but we stand alongside them in good times and bad, and the effects of bad or tough decisions can result in monetary as well as business losses. Such decisions are completely unlike those facing companion-animal veterinarians. Choices concerning treatment options for the family pet won’t result in the loss of the family farm or sustainability of the client’s business.
We are put in a precarious position, and the risk of giving biased or bad advice is undeniable in our profession. On the contrary, the risk of not fully understanding the implications of our recommendations or not considering the losses that could be incurred would also leave us in a bad situation. Dr Julie Menard’s presentation at the Leman Conference this year, titled “What would Dr Leman do for PRRS?” reminded me that the relationship we all strive for with our producer clients is coveted regardless of the risk. She quoted from a paper written in 1998 by Dr Leman, who was a very well-respected, world-renowned swine veterinarian and mentor.
The message was titled “Livestock producers want and will continue to want veterinary service” and continued “They want veterinarians to:
• Be co-responsible for farm success or failure.
• Help share the burden or worry.
• Compare their farm with other similar farms.
• Authenticate their farm decisions and judgments.
• Increase the farm profits by reducing costs and increasing thorough-put.”
We have always solved problems by working with each other and with producers. We continue this collaboration in the many PRRS regional control programs across the country. The last 2 years, we have had a renewed and energized fight against PRRS. We must continue this fight even if it sometimes looks futile. We are making progress. Even in programs that have setbacks, lessons are learned that will help us.
Another really impressive and astounding accomplishment of teamwork is the scientific knowledge gained from the PRRS Host Genetics Consortium. This research is another way our industry is showing our tenacity and strength to overcome this devastating disease.
As we start the New Year, it is a time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. Take a moment to consider our successes and failures this year and what we have learned from them. There are many opportunities for you to help in the fight against PRRS. If you have not already done so, check out our new Web site, which includes a committee section on how you can get involved. One committee, completely focused on PRRS, needs your expertise. Take the challenge and continue the fight – PRRS will surrender!
Have a Happy New Year and I hope to see you in sunny San Diego.
Tara Donovan, DVM